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She can’t walk and he can’t see, but together, they climb mountains

HIKING BUDDIES
hiking_with_sight | Instagram | Fair Use
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Their next goal is to climb a mountain taller than 14,000 feet!

Melanie Knecht and Trevor Hahn are hiking buddies, both from Colorado. However, they aren’t a conventional hiking team.

Knecht is 29 years old and was born with spina bifida; Hahn is 42 years old, and five years ago he lost his sight due to glaucoma. Knecht uses a wheelchair, so in the past it was complicated for her to do anything “off-road,” although she found workarounds to make it happen. She even went to Easter Island where a friend carried her on his back using a carrier designed for parents to carry toddlers. On his part, since losing his sight, Trevor has continued to hike, but initially relied on having teammates who could guide him with spoken directions and by ringing a bell.

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Hiking at The Grand Teton National Park was both challenging and rewarding, and definitely our biggest feat yet.💪🏼 Honestly though, the hike wasn’t as difficult as the hoards of people we had to navigate around. We go a lot slower than most, and have to tread very carefully around obstacles on the trail, so we will pull off the trail to let other people pass us, which makes us go even slower. Since so many folks that visit our national parks aren’t “experienced” hikers, there seems to be an absence of hiking etiquette on the trail. Share your top hiking dos and don’ts with us!⛰🥾👀 ••• (image description: Trevor and Melanie smiling in front of Jenny Lake, surrounded by pine trees, with the snow capped Tetons in the background)

A post shared by Trevor & Melanie (@hiking_with_sight) on

Knecht and Hahnmet each other last year at a course for adaptive exercise, and soon became friends. Their shared passion for nature and outdoor activities inspired them to form a team and undertake the adventure of hiking in the mountains together. “To us, teaming up to do this just seemed like common sense,” Melanie told reporter Kathryn Miles in an article in Outside.

“He’s the legs, and I’m the eyes!”

Knecht “walks” thanks to a custom-made carrier similar to a backpack that allows Hahn to carry her. Knecht, in turn, is a great guide. According to Miles’ article in Outside, she’s a professionally trained singer and “the queen of imaginative invectives,” so she’s a fun and able guide, describing the terrain underfoot and landscapes they traverse.

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Every single hike is a training experience, regardless of difficulty level, length of the hike, or familiarity! We celebrated the Summer Solstice on Friday with a local hike up Horsetooth Rock. We didn’t make it all the way to the top, due to lots of rain and muddy/slippery trail conditions. Although we didn’t necessarily enjoy being soggy and cold, working through as many weather conditions as possible will give us more confidence next time, so we still count that a “win”! It was also a good reminder that you can never be too prepared!! Anyone else do some hiking this first weekend of summer?🌞 Happy Trails!⛰🥾👀 ••• Photo by: @dannywarley ••• (Image description: Trevor and Melanie in My Freeloader standing in front of a massive boulder surrounded by greenery, with ominous skies overhead, and Horsetooth Reservoir in the background)

A post shared by Trevor & Melanie (@hiking_with_sight) on

“He’s the legs, I’m the eyes — boom! Together, we’re the dream team,” Knecht told Faith Bernstein of Good Morning America. It gives Hahn, in addition to the pleasure of being on a mountaintop, a sense of purpose. “The best part is being able to make her smile,” he told Bernstein; Knecht says she loves the feeling of freedom, leaving her wheelchair behind.

Shared responsibility

They find their collaboration more comfortable than relying on the help of other friends, because “we both have the same responsibility: if one of us goes down, the other one goes down. It shifts the whole dynamic from feeling like a burden, to being essential for someone else’s experience in the outdoors,” Hahn told The Trust for Public Land. “The fact that we’re each helping the other out takes the pressure off,” Knecht added.

“It’s been great to share our story with people, and I hope that it encourages other people to try what we’re doing, or just for anyone to think outside of whatever box they’ve been put in. It goes to show you that we really are stronger together,” Knecht continued. She and Hahn share their experiences on Instagram and Facebook, and have granted interviews to many media outlets.

Focusing on accomplishments

At the same time, they told Outside, they don’t like being called “inspirational.” Hahn told Outside reporter Miles, “I’ve always hated it when I’m out snowboarding and someone shouts down from the lift to tell me that I’m inspiring. It can feel demeaning. You’d never say that to someone shredding the mountain who can see.” Knecht shares the sentiment, wanting the focus to be on her “accomplishments alone,” not on her being “the woman in the wheelchair.”

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✨GIVEAWAY✨ In ONLY 10 DAYS we are joining @arcteryxdenver and @theladyalliance at the Women's Empowerment Tour – Denver Edition for an evening of inspiration! We are one of 5 incredible speakers sharing stories of grit, determination, overcoming obstacles, facing fears, and self-love. We have a couple extra tickets, so we are hosting a giveaway! WIN A FREE TICKET by ✅liking this post, and ✅tagging someone local who would love this event! Tag as many people as you would like for more entries! Winner will be notified by Instagram message at 2 pm June 25! Happy Trails!🏔🥾👀 (Image description: Trevor and Melanie with Melanie’s black lab service dog, smiling on a winding trail surrounded by pine trees)

A post shared by Trevor & Melanie (@hiking_with_sight) on

Perhaps rather than inspiring, we could call them “exemplary.” After all, every one of us is stronger in some aspects and weaker in others. There’s not a man or woman alive who doesn’t need other people whose strengths and weaknesses complement their own. Knecht and Hahn show us that “we are stronger together,” and that’s a lesson that has nothing to do with disability: it has to do with the human condition.

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