The Freedom To Climb Mountains
Melissa Simpson & No Barriers co-founder Erik Weihenmeyer after reaching the summit during Melissa’s climb in Leadville,Colorado, September 2020
“No Barriers got me out of my comfort zone and changed my life. It gave me the freedom to climb mountains, something I’ve wanted to do since I first met Erik Weihenmeyer.”
– Melissa Simpson
On the morning of September 29th, 2020, Melissa Simpson embarked on a journey not only to climb, but to summit 13,000 ft and accomplish a monumental goal of hers: the freedom to climb mountains. Melissa didn’t just climb a mountain this day; she moved one.
Navigating life with cerebral palsy and being in a wheelchair has not been easy for Melissa, but that has never stopped her from persevering. Melissa’s No Barriers story began in 2017 when No Barriers co-founder Erik Weihenmeyer spoke at her graduation from Colorado Mountain College. Erik inspired Melissa to check out No Barriers and she ended up attending the Summit that was held in Lake Tahoe that year. During the Summit she was able to experience amazing activities like rock climbing, but what had her in awe especially was the No Barriers community. I am really glad my life has taken this turn for better since finding No Barriers. I have this amazing network of people.” Over the past few years, Melissa has been an avid member of the No Barriers community and strives to help give back to the community in any way that she can. Melissa fully embraces what living the No Barriers Life means and by doing so, she is helping to pave the way for others to take a step out of their comfort zone and seize the extraordinary opportunities and adventures that are out in the world. Each element of the No Barriers Life has been important to Melissa’s journey, but there is one in particular that she has been utilizing recently.
The last No Barriers Life Element is Elevate, and is one that Melissa demonstrates with both confidence and thoughtfulness. To live an elevated life, participants are encouraged to impact the world and those around them by serving as a leader in their communities, sharing their experiences and what they have learned along the way. Melissa has been embracing Elevate through sharing her No Barriers Stories with people near and far from her, emphasizing the importance of believing that What’s Within You Is Stronger Than What’s In Your Way. “No Barriers got me out of my comfort zone and changed my life. I thought it’s time to give back. My main goal in life now is to inspire and help other people.” One of the ways Melissa wants to inspire and help other people is through sharing the importance of innovations like the GRIT Freedom Chair. Engineered similarly to a mountain bike, the Freedom Chair allows riders to enjoy the outdoors in any terrain. Having a Freedom Chair means that Melissa is able to explore terrain easier on her own that was challenging before, or that her other chair was unable to go through at all. “That freedom chair gave me the freedom I wanted. I have never been able to go through gravel without struggle, but now I go though it like nothing. 30 minutes before to only like 5 minutes now!”. Snow, mud, or gravel isn’t stopping Melissa!
Melissa has many goals planned to achieve in her Freedom Chair in the upcoming year. One of her first goals is getting to adventure more in her home state of Colorado. From Vail to Golden, she is hoping to tackle some amazing hikes and see Colorful Colorado from all different heights and angels. Next fall, Melissa would like to plan a trip to Moab, Utah with a friend who also has a Freedom Chair. While there, she would like to explore the desert landscape of Arches National park in her chair and find other accessible trails around the area. There is a very special goal that Melissa is looking forward to as well. “My long term goal is to go fishing in my chair. I used to fish but it became too hard in my manual wheelchair. It kept getting stuck in the sand, dirt, and rocks. I felt like I lost my sense of freedom to go fishing until I got my freedom chair.” The sound of the water and the “escape” as Melissa says, is something that she has been missing greatly, and is really looking forward to doing again.
Melissa in her Freedom Chair, with her No Barriers flag in hand, training for her big climb
Like a mountain, Melissa is strong, confident, and uplifting. Her adventurous spirit is an inspiration for anyone wanting to live the No Barriers Life. She is the definition of someone who continues to challenge themselves and never gives up. Melissa gained strength from the training for her climb and physical therapy and is now able to to hold herself up to stand. Her long term goal is to gain enough strength to walk around the house or short distances with a walker. Melissa inspires all of us to not only climb mountains in our lives, but to move them, too.
Melissa among the mountain tops at 13,000 ftDecember 2, 2020