The ascent began in the dark, about 9 p.m., with temperatures below freezing. By daylight the next morning, the climbers had reached the summit of Cotopaxi, a 19,000-foot volcano in Ecuador.
Eight of the climbers at the top of the mountain were amputees.
The climb this week was part of the Range of Motion Project, or ROMP, a Denver-based nonprofit that helps deliver prosthetic devices for amputees in need, especially to those in poverty in countries like Ecuador.
The climb to the top of Cotopaxi was ROMP's main fundraising event of the year, with 23 climbers in total reaching the summit. The group has helped ROMP raise more than $100,000 this year.
It was the fifth year in a row that a team of ROMP climbers scaled a mountain in Ecuador, a major focus of the nonprofit's mission. ROMP founder David Krupa is living in country, in the mountainous capital city of Quito, where ROMP is delivering prosthetic devices to about 90 patients this year. Across the world, ROMP is expected to help nearly 400 patients this year.
But the climb this week, the team said, was more than just raising money – it was about raising the awareness for amputees and showing what can be done as an amputee.
"I've been an amputee for three years," said Kirstie Ennis, who scaled Cotopaxi with ROMP. "I'm doing more now on one leg than I did with two. Do I think anything is possible? Absolutely not. But by putting these amputees on a mountain, it's a huge symbol of what is possible."
Sandy Dukat, another member of the climbing team who lives in Denver, said it was important to show the people that receive ROMP's help in Ecuador that there is hope.
"I think we've validated this community [of amputees]," she said. "I think we came together as one, and there's no better way than to go up to the mountain and show what's possible."