REI Presents: La Cumbre

“When I lost my foot, I put two feet on the ground.”

Kathy Pico, an Ecuadorian native, lost her leg to cancer at age 38. Reassessing her life’s value, Kathy turned to alpinism.

“I decided that if I had another opportunity, I wouldn’t waste it,” she said. “During the second chemotherapy, I decided to amputate my leg. This night I cried a lot. It pained me to lose a part of my body, but I decided that this was the last day I was going to cry for something I wasn’t going to have.”

On July 28, 2017, Kathy attempted to summit Cayambe–Ecuador’s third tallest volcano at 18,996 feet–alongside Chad Jukes, a world-class mountaineer and wounded warrior, and the Range of Motion Project (ROMP), a nonprofit that provides high-quality prosthetic care in underserved populations.

“Thanks to ROMP, we’ve gathered a group of Ecuadorian and North American amputees to deliver the message that with technology, we can reach mountaintops,” Kathy said.

La Cumbre (The Summit) explores what it means to live as an amputee in the developing world and the power of pursuing things once believed impossible.

Kathy Pico running

Stept Studios Director Dana Romanoff and Director of Photography Chris Naum follow Kathy through the streets of Ecuador as she trains for her third attempt to summit Cayambe. Prior to her amputation, Kathy led a sedentary life. Following the procedure, she fought for the technology and resources to become an athlete. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Hagen)

Kathy Pico adjusts her silicone liner

Director of Photography Chris Naum captures a moment of reprieve as Kathy adjusts her silicone liner. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Hagen)

“People who go to the mountain, consciously or subconsciously, go because we are trying to find where we come from, and the mountain never disappoints you.”

Adjusting Kathy's crampon prosthetic attachment

Alex Dahinten, ROMP’s prosthetic orthotic resident, relied on a Leatherman to adjust Kathy’s crampon prosthetic attachment. This was Kathy’s first time testing the attachment while waiting for a weather window to push for the summit of Cayambe. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Hagen)

Reggie Showers rappels into a scree field

Reggie Showers, Climbing for ROMP Elite member and two-time motorcycle drag racing world champion in the IDBA, rappels into a scree field on Ecuador’s Wawa Pichincha. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Hagen)

Team on the way to the Refugio Ruales Oleas Berge

Karl Egloff, world-class alpinist and owner of Cumbre Tours, leads the team to Refugio Ruales Oleas Berge at the base of Cayambe. Here the team trains and awaits a weather window to make a push for the summit. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Hagen)

ROMP's Elite Team

ROMP’s Elite Team celebrates their third annual Climbing for ROMP event in Ecuador. The expedition team—which consisted of 22 climbers, 10 of whom are amputees—raised more than $83,000 for patients in Ecuador and Guatemala. These funds will help provide prosthetic devices and therapy to 150 underserved amputees. (Photo Credit: Lindsey Hagen)