Tag Archives: Hiking

Overcoming the Obstacles of Disability to Pursue Extreme Sporting Dreams

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Kevin’s Story

Kevin is my best friend. For the entirely of our friendship, I’ve admired his seemingly innate ability to excel at multiple sports with a drive and exactness I could only dream of replicating.
Several years ago, in a cruel twist of fate, he lost his leg in a devastating car accident. His family and friends imagined that Kevin would be mourning the loss of his athletic pursuits and give up entirely. Much to our shock, Kevin redoubled his efforts, and tackled new challenges head on with the same aplomb as before his accident. Needless to say, he is more inspiring to me than ever.

If you’re living with a physical disability but still crave the rush of an extreme sport, there is a world of opportunity still available to you. Whether you’re in a wheelchair, have mobility limitations, or are suffering from vision or hearing loss, extreme sporting is within your grasp thanks to adaptive technologies and organizations that’ve specialized designs to help.

Wheelchair Sports

For those who require a wheelchair for basic mobility, even sports like basketball, volleyball, and handball may seem out of reach. An increasing number of local gyms offer specific schedules for wheelchair-based gym sports, and some cities have even dedicated entire clubs and leagues for people with disabilities.

Of course, the scope of wheelchair-based activities aren’t limited to sports you can play with a ball on a court. One such sport is sled hockey, which is similar to hockey but with some modified equipment.

“Sled hockey follows most of the typical ice hockey rules with the exception some of the equipment. Players sit in specially designed sleds that sit on top of two hockey skate blades. There are two sticks for each player instead of one and and the sticks have metal picks on the butt end for players to propel themselves,” says USA Hockey.

Extreme chairing is another way to utilize your wheelchair to get your blood pumping. Varieties of this sport include power wheelchair racing, chairing in halfpipes and skate parks, and kart cross (motorized wheelchair motocross).

For the Visually Impaired

A visual impairment – even total vision loss – is no reason to prevent you from having fun with extreme sports. Taking to the water in its various forms is one of the more popular outlets for those living with vision limitations. Scuba diving, sailing, and kayaking are all sports that vision-impaired athletes are enjoying with success. Many water sports involve teams or tandem participation, in which with the aid of a guide an athlete participates and is kept within safety parameters . Hiking and backpacking are also examples of extreme sports that rely on a team framework. For a more independent experience, you can even take a service dog out with you on your hike.

Sports with the Best Adaptive Equipment

Some sports have so much wonderful, well-tested adaptive equipment available that it’s almost the same sporting experience for those with disabilities and those without.
Proper gear is required for any athlete depending on the sport. Certain equipment makes sporting pursuits safer and more comfortable to the user. Thankfully gear companies are constantly engineering their products and the foray into pieces specialized for those with disabilities have been exceptional.

Rock climbing is one such sport. “Rock climbing can be incredibly difficult. It’s a sport that places great demands on your body, core strength, and ability to handle heights. Despite this, climbing is also a fairly popular extreme sport amongst the disabled community, performed both on dedicated climbing walls and in the mountains. Adaptive climbing walls and trained guides mean visually impaired people can learn to scale most rock faces,” says Seable.

With special harnesses and lift mechanisms, even those with little use of their legs can climb to great heights and enjoy honing their skills on the walls.

Skiing is another sport that is perfect for adrenaline junkies who happen to have a disability.

“The primary methods for adaptive skiing and riding are stand-up, sit-down, snowboarding, and ski bike. Stand up skiing includes 2-track, 3-track, and 4-track, while sit skiing includes bi-ski, dual-ski, and monoski,” notes Adaptive Adventures. As you can see, there are tons of options to suit your specific disability. Depending on your skills level, you can choose to sit, stand, and have the support of anywhere from two to four ski blades.

Finally, surfing is gaining popularity among the disabled community thanks to various organizations dedicated to getting people out on the water despite their disabilities. Special surfboards that come with kayak-style paddles are good for some, as is prone surfing where you lie prone on a board and have a partner to assist you with riding out and catching waves.

As my friendship with Kevin has demonstrated, with grit, determination and some good gear, the realm of disciplines of extreme sporting is more accessible than ever.

Faces of the White Mountains: Katherine Sleeper Walden

Faces of the White Mountains: Katherine Sleeper Walden

This series will highlight important figures in the White Mountains, both past & present.

If you’ve ever driven through Wonalancet, summited Mount Katherine, East or West Sleeper, gazed down into ‘the Bowl’ or traipsed along the Kate Sleeper Trail, then you’re one of many silently indebted to Katherine Sleeper Walden.

Innkeeper extraordinaire, Kate Sleeper
Photo: Wonalancet Outdoor Club Archives

Kate Sleeper was born in the Boston area in 1862 and raised in a setting rich in education and community involvement. She had frequented the Chocorua area of Tamworth during vacations, visiting friends and family for many years. Evidently she was so enamored with the area that during one of these visits she decided to go into business for herself, by moving to the area and opening an inn. In 1890 a six hundred plus acre tract was secured and Wonalancet Farm as it was named had begun to take form; it rose to regional prominence, hosting countless tourists, outdoor enthusiasts and distinguished members of society into the 1930s.

Wonalancet Inn
Photo: Wonalancet Outdoor Club Archives

One of Kate’s most lasting contributions to the outdoor industry was the formation of the Wonalancet Outdoor Club, an institution that still operates vibrantly to this day. As an innkeeper, Kate was especially aware of the desires of tourists to visit the peaks of the area. The practice of trekking as a form of amusement and entertainment was gaining notable momentum in the late 1800s, driving a mass influx of city dwellers to the White Mountains and calling for an infrastructure to meet their needs. In August of 1891, AMC President Charles E. Fay and Councillor William Ladd were guests at Wonalancet Inn, and Kate capitalized on an opportunity to leverage their influence. By their guidance, local farmers and residents formed the Wonalancet Outdoor Club stating, “Its purpose shall be the building and maintenance of paths, to improve the place and develop its natural beauties…”
Visit the Wonalancet Outdoor Club’s site here: www.wodc.org

East Sleeper's summit

East Sleeper’s summit

The Bowl is a stunning glacial cirque encircled by Mounts Passaconaway, Whiteface and the Wonalancet Range well known for harboring rare old growth hardwood forest preserved in its depths. This can be attributed partly to the efforts of Kate Sleeper as well. The greed of the timber barons of the late 1800s and early 1900s is legendary; clear cutting thousands of acres at a time at a shocking speed left the White Mountain region littered with slash, ravaged by massive fires, and subject to erosion and unstable water flow. After several initial defeats, an impressive local movement driven by concerned citizens and much lobbying by clubs and businesses, the Weeks Act of 1911 was passed, enabling forest reserves to be set aside for the formation of a National Forest. Kate worked extensively to protect the Bowl, which was eventually added to the White Mountain National Forest as an inclusion of the Sandwich Range within its boundaries. The Bowl Natural Research Area, as it has been designated, has served extensively as an ecological resource of great study; its scientific value as a primary forest cannot be overstated, especially as a reference to the primarily second growth forest of the rest of the White Mountain Region.

Logging Slash
Photo courtesy Dave Govatski

View Into the Bowl from the Rollins Trail

Kate continued to be an instrumental figure in conservation, community and promotion of the enjoyment of the White Mountain National Forest, and the gifts of her efforts are still very much cherished to this day.

About The Author

Elizabeth Kane

Elizabeth’s love for the White Mountains is unparalleled. Despite working 40-50 hours/week, she manages to spend every spare minute in the Whites and her knowledge of the trail system is impressive. Her pup, Katahdin has likely logged more hours on the trails and tagged more summits than most do in their lifetime. On any given day, you can find Elizabeth hiking, trail running, fly fishing, climbing, mountain biking, or backpacking. She considers the White Mountains her home.


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Wild Tecumseh: An Underrated White Mountain Destination

Wild Tecumseh: An Underrated White Mountain Destination

Looking at Tecumseh from another angle

A question I’ll often ask people I meet along the trail is “What’s your favorite White Mountain peak?” The answer I hear most frequent is a peak typically in the Franconia Range, Presidential Range, or Twin Range. I’ve not heard Mount Tecumseh mentioned as a favorite.

I can understand. When I’m bushwhacking the Western Sandwich Range during Winter, I can hear music blaring from the ski slopes of Tecumseh. It’s a noisy neighbor of Waterville Valley. The trail leading from the ski area’s parking lot is usually congested with groups, making the short trek to the summit. My opinion was aligned with most people’s view: it’s a developed peak, lacking a wilderness feel.

Ascending Tecumseh

Bushwhacking has taught me that every mountain has its wild side. In the past year, I felt a growing curiosity about Tecumseh. Looking at a topo map and satellite imagery, I realized how much of that massive mountain is beyond the reach of people.

On New Year’s Eve 2016, I made the trek to Tecumseh’s more remote region. Hiking along Tripoli Road, I started my bushwhack in shin-deep snow. At a low elevation, the sun broke through the hardwood forest, providing amazing visibility and a warm light. Loose powder covered the low branches of some evergreens, but with a gentle shake of those branches, I made a clear path for my ascent.

Sun breaking through the forest

As the terrain grew steeper, I noticed ice-covered outcroppings. Between the outcroppings, I found a safe point for ascent, where I crawled under dense vegetation and snow-covered hemlocks. Tapping one branch sent a pile of snow onto my head and back. As I stood upright in a clearing, I noticed fresh moose tracks heading West, toward a far more remote region of the mountain. I quickly pushed higher – the opposite direction the tracks headed.

Fresh tracks

Further along the ridge, I encountered a spring, gushing clear and cool, out the side of the mountain. At that spot, I rested and listened to the rushing water for several minutes. This area was the secluded spot I wanted to experience. Standing up, I turned and noticed some fresh weasel tracks bounding to the East and up the ridge. I decided to follow them and make my ascent, hoping for a chance encounter.

Along the way, the snow grew deeper and more challenging for my snowshoes to negotiate. The forest grew more silent, barely a whisper of wind. The sun was now obscured by clouds arriving from the West. I knew I had to work harder to arrive at the summit or risk an encounter with poor weather.

Weather rolling in

As I crested the ridge, I finally crossed a remote, Northern section of Mount Tecumseh Trail, abandoned in winter due to the closure of Tripoli Road. The snow was deep and unpacked. No human had been here in many weeks. As I ascended the trail, I noticed the tracks of an animal with monstrous paws. At a distance, they seemed to belong to some large carnivore, which made my adrenaline rush for a moment. Bobcat? Coyote? When I approached them, I noticed they belonged to a large snowshoe hare, bounding along the trail and eventually dodging West. Past the tracks, I began my fight up the steep, snow-drifted trail to the summit. A gray scale view from Franconia to Scar Peak became unmistakable when I stopped to gaze, exhausted. I knew that once I reached the summit, the trail would be broken out and the mountain would appear developed.

Worth the effort

I stopped to enjoy some final moments of solitude. The forest reminded me of some remote regions of the White Mountains I’ve visited. As I turned one last time, I stared at the huge mass of Osceola. Catching my breath, I thought back on the journey and of the respect I had gained for a mountain that I learned had more wilderness secrets and experiences to offer than most people imagine.

About The Author


WMNF wilderness navigation and bushwhacking enthusiast


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