Power Women: Taking adaptive sports to a higher altitude with Melanie Knecht

Sharing stories of inspirational women all over the world is what we’re after here at The Modern Domestic Woman. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Melanie Knecht, a Colorado-based music therapist, rock climber, boxer, and soon-to-be 14,000 foot mountain dominator.

Never mind that Melanie was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair to get around, this tenacious woman has teamed up with her friend Trevor to make the journey hiking a “14er.” A unique duo, Trevor has his share of challenges, in fact, in 2013 he lost his vision to glaucoma. Since then, Trevor’s been guided up mountains all over the world using a bell/voice system.

The two friends came up with a creative solution to take their love of adaptive sports to a new level. Now, Melanie is the eyes of the operation, guiding Trevor as he hikes with Melanie on his back.

Elizabeth Rago — Tell me everything about this 14,000 foot mountain.

Melanie Knecht — Hiking a 14er is sort of a “rite of passage” for Coloradans, as there are 58 mountains with peaks at/above 14K feet. It is a “thing” for Coloradans to climb as many 14ers they can. We haven’t decided on the peak that we are planning on conquering yet, as we are still in the early stages of training and figuring out all of the logistics. Since we are in the middle of winter, we are waiting for it to warm up a bit before we can regularly start training for the big hike, but living in Fort Collins (northern Colorado) provides many nearby spots that are perfect for training.

ER — How did you meet Trevor?

Melanie and her hiking partner, Trevor Hahn.

MK — Last summer, I made an awesome friend who is a personal trainer, and a huge supporter of adaptive sports. She immediately said, “You need to meet my friends Trevor and Mandy (Mandy is Trevor’s wife)!”, and introduced us all in a Facebook message. They invited me to an adaptive boxing class through an organization called B-Bold, which I was excited to attend. They also told me to check out rock climbing through Adaptive Adventures. Oddly enough, I was already signed up for the rock climbing class, so we would have crossed paths ANYWAY several weeks later. Although, I doubt we would have become friends without our friend Becca introducing us.

I am still fairly new to Fort Collins, and Trevor, Mandy and Becca quickly became part of my community here.

ER — How/when did you decide to team up?

MK — Trevor has climbed crazy mountains in Nepal by following the sound of a bell and someone’s voice. Back in 2012, I went to Easter Island and was able to see the Moai via a carrier. It was pretty uncomfortable for everyone involved, and I didn’t really fit in it because it was designed for a toddler, not a tiny woman with boobs, ha! Regardless, it was effective and I was able to see sights that would have never been possible in a wheelchair. Since then, I’ve wanted to revisit that idea.

One day, Trevor and Mandy invited me over to watch a CSU football game, and we just got to talking about all of that. I’m not quite sure how we came to the conclusion: “Hey, wouldn’t that be cool if Mel was the guide, with a legit “jet pack” that she can be transported in via Trevor?”, but Trevor and Mandy and I were all intrigued by the idea. It wasn’t until several months later when we talked about it again. Trevor had heard about the My Freeloader carrier, and reached out to them to see if they would donate one to us. The owner was super excited about our idea and had one shipped to us almost immediately.

ER — How long have you been hiking together?

Melanie and Trevor’s original Facebook post announcing their intentions has been shared over 900 times.

MK — We have never actually done a hike together! Moreover, we are pretty shocked at the momentum that our initial Facebook post, that merely discussed our PLAN to hike a 14er, has gained in just a few days. We have done one “test drive” in a park in town, so there is still a long way to go! We both live pretty busy lives outside of this hobby, and are also at the mercy of good weather days, but we try to get together as often as our schedules allow it.