Taking Monadnock One Step at a Time

July 18, 2014

Contributed by Rob Herbison

“I pushed myself hard, giving up was not an option.”          –Tyler Terrasi

On June 28, three classmates – Michael Davis-Ickes, Tyler Terrasi, and Bolton resident Rob Herbison – successfully hiked up Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. While many others have made the

Tyler Terrasi, who is blind, takes a break at the top of the mountain.                                             Courtesy photo

Tyler Terrasi, who is blind, takes a break at the top of the mountain.
Courtesy photo

same journey, for Tyler Terrasi this hike was a bit more difficult than for many. Tyler is blind.

This trip was the natural culmination of a year of hard work for Tyler. Last September, Rob decided it was time for Tyler to learn to hop a fence.  Tyler learned to take a small short cut out of his regular walk to class by scrambling over a small fence.  This small success lead Tyler onto more challenges.

Tyler practiced walking up steep hills and eventually learned to climb a tree.  Being blind, he had to work more slowly, feeling his way in front of him.  However, he found he could go anywhere a sighted person could.  This all came together with his attempt on Mount Monadnock a few weeks ago.

Monadnock is 3,165 feet (965 meters) high, making it the highest peak in southern New Hampshire.  Although the mountain does not sit above the tree line, the peak is clear of trees from forest fires, leaving a 360° view of New England and Canada.  The hike to the summit is busy year round with area residents flocking to its slopes.

Experienced climbers Rob and Mike joined Tyler for the attempt.  The three set out at the base at 9:30 am.  They quickly learned that they did not know everything necessary to complete the attempt.  They swapped out Tyler’s traditional walking cane for a sturdy stick that Tyler could put his weight on.  They also worked on new communication methods to warn Tyler of obstacles ahead.

For tricky sections, one climber would go ahead and map out the best path up while the other would talk Tyler through each hand and foot placement or physically guide him.  Many parts were easier to scramble up on all fours, using the hands to feel the path ahead.

On the way up, other hikers would stop to take pictures of the group or to shake Tyler’s hand.  No one, including the trail guides, had ever seen a blind hiker.

By 2:00 p.m., the team had reached the summit and stopped for a celebratory meal.  A large crowd at the top stopped to applaud Tyler on his achievement.  However the hardest part of the climb was left to go.
It is said that the descent is harder than the climb.  This is doubly true for a blind hiker.  Each foot he placed in front of him was lower than the last and he had little way of knowing how far the drop would be.

For the steep and uneven declines, it was easier to sit down and slide forward feeling the path ahead.  Both Rob and Tyler, working together on this, stripped the seat out of their blue jeans, leading to a comical hike down the mountain.

With their slower descent, the sun faded in the sky.  As the team ran out of water, both Mike and Rob made separate trips ahead down the mountain to refill the water bottles.

Rob Herbison follows Tyler on their way up Mt. Manadnock.                                Courtesy photo

Rob Herbison follows Tyler on their way up Mt. Manadnock.
Courtesy photo

But Tyler was absolutely determined to finish the journey himself, refusing all offers to ride on a climber’s back to the base.

His fellow hikers had never before seen someone work so hard, for so long, to achieve a goal.

The descent continued past sunset.  Trail guides, anxious to get the team off of the mountain, offered headlamps to guide the way.  The group humorously pointed out that lights would not do Tyler any good.  The light pollution, even in New Hampshire, was plenty for the sighted hikers to see by.

The climb took eleven hours in total, which may be a record for a trip to the summit and back.  But, the team made it.  Until proven wrong, the team intends to declare Tyler the first blind hiker to summit Mount Monadnock.

Tyler Terrasi says, “With much encouragement from my friends, who were there every step of the way, I succeeded in achieving my dream of climbing to the top of one of New England’s most acclaimed landmarks.”

Tyler would like the female residents of Bolton to know that he is single.