On Sunday, Oct. 9, my family and I ventured to NROC to enjoy the Via Ferrata. The trip began at 8 a.m. The start of the day was beautiful –a crisp fall morning, with mountains and trees poking through a fog that settled along the banks of the North Fork River. Soon the sun was breaking through the fog, illuminating that magical palate of vivid fall colors.
The climb was spectacular, challenging and rewarding. The intensity of focus that the climb demands, the varying terrain and the breathtaking scenery would make the trip one for the memory books. But meeting and hearing the story of a fellow Via climber was even more inspirational than the perfect weather and peak fall scenery.
The climber, an art teacher from the Winchester area, decided to climb the optional vertical headwall. Once she reached the top, she shared that she was climbing with a prosthetic leg. Turns out she had a bout with bone cancer at the age of 12, and surgeons removed part of her leg and replaced it with an internal prosthetic. A large scar running down her lower leg gave evidence of her cancer experience. But she also shared that she had also broken her neck (same vertebrae that left Christopher Reeves a quadriplegic) during a nasty car accident later in her young life. Suddenly the awe I felt as I scanned the incredible landscape that stretched before us as we sat atop that impressive rock fin paled in comparison to the awe I felt for this courageous young woman who, despite setbacks in her life, embraced adventure, physical challenges and the lure of the outdoors to tackle a trip that so many people simply could not or would not do. Like the Via Ferrata, she was truly inspiring.