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No Barriers Climb to Summit

Melissa Simpson climbs the summit with her ropes team in the Rocky Mountains. Pulling is Skyler Williams from Touch the Top and Emily Breeden from TRANE. Penn Street of AINC is pushing. Next to Melissa is her trainer, Karen Fenske, on Tuesday, Sept 29th, 2020. Photo Credit: Moses Street.

What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.

That motto of No Barriers’ yearly What’s Your Everest? challenge was quoted with enthusiasm by Melissa Simpson, the subject of the short documentary film “From my Window,” screened at Telluride’s Mountain Film Festival over Memorial Day weekend. The film stars Simpson and No Barriers co-founder Erik Weihenmayer, and features AINC Director of Development Penn Street and her husband, Moses, as members of her rope team.

Simpson is a lifelong Leadville resident with cerebral palsy who has spent most of her life navigating the famously rugged mountain town in a wheelchair. Negotiating the travelways of Leadville like that was never easy, and often impossible. However, Simpson has had a direct view of a 13,000-foot peak from her bedroom window all her life and she dreamed of one day making it to the top.

She met Weihenmayer after he spoke at her graduation from Colorado Mountain College and they immediately bonded. Last fall, Weihenmayer contacted film director Frank Pickell because he and Simpson were planning the climb and wanted it documented. Pickell’s company, Futuristic Films, took on the project and he immersed himself in the powerful world of a woman with No Barriers.

The film documents Simpson’s Rocky-inspired upper-body training, the logistical planning of the No Barriers rope team, and the big day on which the team guided her to the summit.

Posed photo of Melissa Simpson and her ropes team at the peak of the mountain, cheering and smiling.
(From left to right, back row) Nate Gillette with No Barriers USA, Erik Weihenmayer from Touch the Top, Jeff Evans, Skyler Williams from Touch the Top, Penn Street from AINC, Artist Trevor Hahn, and Photographer Moses Street. (From left to right, front row) Melissa’s trainer Karen Fenske, Melissa Simpson, and Emily Breeden from TRANE in the Rocky Mountains, CO, on Tuesday, Sept 29th, 2020. Photo Credit: Moses Street.

At one point, the team stopped at a fork in the trail. Simpson had a headache and terrible oxygen depletion, but when given the choice of trails to two different summits, she chose the one that was 1,000 feet higher than the other.

Simpson currently volunteers at Vail’s Howard Head Sports Medicine rehab center and works with one of Weihenmayer’s organizations.


Melissa Simpson in her wheelchair at the top of a mountain peak, arm raised in the air in celebration as she looks over the peak
Melissa celebrating reaching a summit in the Rocky Mountains, on Tuesday, Sept 29th, 2020. Photo Credit: Moses Street.

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Comments · 2

  • Michael Michener · June 8, 2021

    A super article. My I suggest that we repeat such grand writings frequently. Again, well done!!!

    • Alex Flynn · June 9, 2021

      Thank you, Michael!!

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