It takes a lot of equipment to get to the top of Cotopaxi, one of the highest peaks in South America at 19,347 feet. Even elite mountaineers can’t get there without crampons, poles, axes, ropes and a whole lot more. If you happen to use a prosthetic leg in addition—well, that’s just another piece of gear. Or so we learned from In Her Shoes, a gorgeous 19-minute documentary about the amputee climbers who reached Cotopaxi’s summit last fall.
The film documents the fifth annual high-altitude challenge sponsored by the Range of Motion Project (ROMP), an international nonprofit that provides limb care and prosthetics to individuals who would otherwise lack access to these services. The ascent, which took place in September 2019, included more than two dozen climbers, amputees and able-bodied alike. The film focuses on two individuals. One, Kirstie Ennis (who Outside magazine describes as “the toughest mountaineer on earth”), was seeking redemption after a failed attempt to summit Cotopaxi in 2018. The other, first-timer Estefania Cervantes, is a Mexican amputee who’d barely climbed anything higher than a staircase before she joined ROMP’s expedition.
We won’t spoil the ending. Watch the film and find out who made it to the top. And see if it motivates you to undertake your own challenges and expand your range of mobility.
That’s one of the film’s objectives, according to Lauren Panasewicz, ROMP’s director of development.
“We did our first climb in 2015 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA],” says Panasewicz, better known as LP. “That’s our main event, so to speak. But we have a bunch of other climbs that happen around the world, as community climbs to support our programs. Usually we’ll have a climb coordinator who organizes climbs in different cities. With what’s happening this year with coronavirus, we’re still kind of deciding what we’re going to do. But we might take it back to our original idea and ask individuals to get out and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA. It might be a virtual, global thing where people just commit to getting mobile that day and do their own walking or hiking or whatever their ability level allows.”
The ADA officially turns 30 on July 26, so mark your calendar. And keep eyes peeled at Amplitude and elsewhere for news of ROMP’s 2020 Cotopaxi climb, which is set to take place in September—for now.
“We have chosen the 2020 team already,” Panasewicz says. “We started training this month, and we’ve been meeting every few weeks via Zoom. The plan—well, ‘plan’ is a funny word this year—but we’re scheduled to go to Cotopaxi at the end of September. Given the possibility of travel restrictions, we’re going to have to be flexible. We don’t necessarily know when it will be, but it will definitely be with this team.”
You can meet some of the participants and support the team here.