The teams were trained and prepared. The equipment was primed and ready. The snacks were available in copious quantities. Oh, but the weather!
August 6 marked the eighth Sunrise Ascent of Mount Washington, an event I’ve previously written about. For the event’s climb up the Mount Washington Auto Road, teams of adaptive athletes and volunteers (or “Mules”) work together to reach the summit of New Hampshire’s tallest mountain. The event serves as one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country (ASPNC) and New England Disabled Sports (NEDS).
Months of planning and fundraising had the teams prepped for the big day. In the week leading up to the climb, all eyes were on the weather. Early forecasts looked hopeful with rains moving off the summit Saturday evening, but in the final hours before the morning summit attempt the winds ramped up. With a forecast of sustained 50 MPH winds and gusts considerably higher, the event was moved to Franconia Notch State Park.
Despite the change in location, teams remained in high spirits. Groups departed from the Flume Gorge as early as 5:30AM to make their way along the recreation path through the notch. The chilly morning air affirmed the decision to move the event location. But soon the sun stretched above the peaks of Franconia Ridge and pushed through the morning mist. Adaptive athletes and their teams made their way decked out in color coordinated fashion, waving flags, and with at least one boombox playing “Eye of the Tiger.”
Many of the groups used a TrailRider to assist their athletes. This specialized piece of equipment provides individuals with a wide range of disabilities access to any terrain. The TrailRider uses a single, sturdy wheel and has handles in back and front for Mules. By attaching webbing to create additional handles, more team members can aid in the effort. The TrailRider’s seat, armrests, and handles are all fully adjustable to provide a comfortable ride for the participant and the Mules. This impressive unit has made treks in the Rockies and even summited Kilimanjaro!
While athletes weren’t able to attempt Mount Washington, they certainly enjoyed the teamwork and support shown by all. The day’s trek culminated at the Governor Gallen Memorial and Sunset Bridge below the towering peak of Mount Lafayette. Once there, athletes and volunteers celebrated the accomplishment with a massive brunch. All told the event raised more than $80,000 to benefit ASPNC and NEDS. The funds raised will help support each organization in providing year-round recreation opportunities to those with disabilities throughout the state and beyond. For this day, athletes and teammates enjoyed a day in the outdoors. For next year, all eyes will return to the summit of Mount Washington!