It’s been 20 years since I last touched the crumbly sandstone of the classic desert route, “Ancient Art,” in the Fisher Towers near Moab, Utah. It is a favorite climbing area for many with a striking topography of thousand foot towers rising up from the barren martian red desert landscape. For me however, it is an especially meaningful spot. Two decades ago Mark Wellman, Hugh Herr and I roped up together to embark on the same climb, and started to dream of creating a movement we ultimately called No Barriers.
The red martian-esque landscape. Photo Credit: Skyler Williams
Fisher Towers peeking out. Photo Credit: Skyler Williams
Hugh, a double leg amputee, my blindness and Mark’s paralysis were each unique barriers that for many would sweep them to the sidelines of life. However, we knew that climbing together sent a message to help people with challenges all over the world.
20 years ago, carrying Mark to the base. Photo Credit: Eric Perlman
Hugh Herr making his way up. Photo Credit: Eric Perlman
Mark using the pulley system he created to climb. Photo Credit: Eric Perlman
The three teenage mutant ninja turtles climbing. Photo Credit: Eric Perlman
On top of the corkscrew. Photo Credit: Eric Perlman
My friend, Rob Pizem, joined me this time to help lead the route. It starts up a scramble apron of jumbled rock, continues up a tight chimney of crumbling rock and you emerge for the last pitch to the real gem of Ancient Art. The sidewalk, as it’s called, is a narrow spine that you straddle like a horse and scooch across, then it’s a leap and a belly flop onto a rock jutting out into space. Quite an intimidating move with a lot of exposure! 20 feet further the route winds up a tight spire to a summit block only a few feet across and disconcertingly wobbly.
On the approach. Photo Credit: Skyler Williams
Rob Pizem and I getting ready to climb. Photo Credit: Skyler Williams
Past the sidewalk, and almost to the top… Photo Credits: Skyler Williams
This climb and the story of my last 20 years of adventure, struggle and building the movement of No Barriers, will be featured on an upcoming NBC special in May. Stay tuned for more details on the exact air date and time.