Multiple sclerosis and a wheelchair could not deprive 61-year-old Pippa Blake of Victoria, Canada of fulfilling her lifelong dream of hiking Mount Everest, and she did so with the assistance of a group of people whose mission it is to help people with disabilities rise above challenges. She recently shared her Mount Everest experience at an event in Nanaimo, British Columbia and hosted by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada’s Central Island Chapter.
Blake’s dreams of going to Mount Everest had been on the back-burner for some time before she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than 20 years ago. She thought her sons had lost their minds when they told her they found people who could help her realize her dreams in a wheelchair that looks like a cross between a wheelbarrow and rickshaw.
The TrailRider, as that curious wheelchair hybrid is known, is the brainchild of Sam Sullivan and Paul Cermak. Sullivan became a quadriplegic in 1979 after a skiing accident. Determined to once again do the things he loved to do before his accident, he founded the Tetra Society of North America. Together with a team of technicians and engineers, Sullivan and Cermak designed what went on to become the first TrailRider, which has since been redesigned, rebuilt, and retested many times and has taken hundreds of people with disabilities to places they never believed possible.
The Rise Above Barriers Society are the angels who made made Blake’s dream a reality. They worked with Blake in organizing a hiking expedition to Mount Everest, and in November 2007, a team of individuals helped pull and push Blake in a TrailRider through 12 days of struggles to make it to the base camp of Mount Everest. Despite illnesses and major hurdles along the way, Blake never doubted they would reach their goal, and she credits the positive energy of everyone involved with keeping her going.
“It never entered my head that we wouldn’t make it,” said Blake of the treacherous trek. “I had a wonderful energy of people all around me.”
Members of the “Dream Team”–as Blake referred to them–later expressed getting more satisfaction out of helping Blake fulfill her dream than in the trek itself.
This talk was the first of many, as Blake plans to go on tour and share her story with others in the hopes that it will inspire other people with disabilities. Officials from the Multiple Sclerosis Society, who brought Blake to Nanaimo, said they wanted other people with disabilities to be inspired by Blake’s story.
“This is slightly over the top for a lot of people, but it’s extraordinary what you can do, if you really believe you can do it,” said Blake in video footage of her trek. “I hope this makes people realize you can do more than dream, but you have to believe in yourself and dig deep, and it’s extraordinary what can happen.”
For a first-hand account of Pippa Blake’s dream-come-true journey, she shared her reflections afterwards at https://www.riseabovebarriers.com/dreamteam.html.
A documentary of her experience is also in the works, but here is a rough highlight video from the Rise Above Barriers Everest Expedition celebrating their awesome achievement:
Original information about the 2007 journey can be found here:
TrailRider information can be found here: