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Episode 2: The Roots of No Barriers — A Conversation with Co-founder Mark Wellman

Mark Wellman is a nationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and motivational speaker. Despite being paralyzed in a mountain climbing accident, Mark has inspired millions to meet their problems head-on and reach for their full potential. A two-time Paralympian and former Yosemite Park Ranger, Mark’s NO LIMITS philosophy encourages individuals to adventure into new horizons; to go beyond the seeming unreachable.

Mark WellmanMark is used to being on the road since he travels throughout the year, bringing his adaptive climbing wall to companies, organizations, and schools. We caught him during one of his road trips and he agreed to swing by Golden, Colorado to the No Barriers podcast studio and catch up with his old friends, Jeff, Dave, and Erik.

Mark is unbelievably accomplished but also reserved and humble. He talks about his legendary, groundbreaking athletic achievements with the same tone most use to describe what they had for lunch. But there was a time in Mark’s life where he was unsure, depressed, and hopeless with no clear path ahead.

Mark discusses his near-death injury that he sustained on a climb that left his paralyzed from the waist down. He spent months in the hospital unsure of how to go forward and lost. That was, until he received some wisdom.

I had this one physical trainer, she was from Germany, and she said: “You need to train like your training for the Olympics!” And I just really took that to heart.”

Mark first was determined to find employment where he could stay connected to the outdoors. So, he went back to school and got his degree in Park Management. He worked as a Park Ranger in various capacities, already shattering people’s ideas of what he was capable of, but that was just the beginning. He soon discovered the world of adaptive sports and threw himself into learning more and designing his own adaptive equipment to get back out into the field.

It was then he came up with the crazy idea of climbing the sheer granite face of El Capitan. He found a partner, built an ascending rope pulley system, and started to train. Now, folks of many different abilities have climbed El Cap, but until Mark, this was unthinkable. He pulled it off and became the first paraplegic to make the ascent.

Mark Wellman rock climbingMark went on to gain tons of media attention, made national and international news, met the President, lit the flaming torch up a 120-foot rope at the Paralympic games in Atlanta; a fun story he shared with us, and continued on to break even more records of athletic achievement, like being the first paraplegic to sit-ski unassisted across the Sierra Nevadas.

Listening to Mark describe his epic achievements it’s easy to forget he has a disability or about all the struggle that led him to this point in his life. But for Mark, it’s about mindset.

“I learned my disability wasn’t a death sentence – let’s get on with life, dude!”

But Mark wanted to share what he learned with others. He details the spark of an idea he had with a friend that led to the formation of the nonprofit, No Barriers, and the humble beginnings of an organization that is now becoming a movement. He uses his time to speak to groups and offer inspiration, as well as lead hands-on adaptive activities that get people out of their comfort zones.

“Let’s get out and enjoy life.”

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————————— EPISODE TRANSCRIPT —————————–

Dave: Well welcome to our No Barriers podcast. We are thrilled today to have Mark Wellman with us, who’s one of the founders of No Barriers. Can’t wait to hear some of his stories about what this organization was founded upon. He’s really the heart and soul behind why many of us are here at the organization.

Before we get into that conversation, Erik, you just came back from a really interesting experience, why don’t share with our listeners a little bit about it?

Erik: [00:00:30] Yeah, I was at a conference with all these authors. There were four of us, and the first was a lady, she was the author of Hidden Figures, this great book that was made into a movie, these African American women who were behind getting us to the moon, didn’t get any credit at first, but then their stories were really illuminated by her book. And this guy who is falsely sent to death row for 30 years. He was incarcerated-

Dave: Wow.

Erik: In a five by [00:01:00] seven room, had to kind of go into his mind and think about how to expand his mind. He said in his mind he married Halle Berry. They were married for 25 happy years.

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