By Kristen Czaban
The Sheridan Press
Via Wyoming News Exchange
SHERIDAN — Experienced hikers look at Tour du Mont Blanc as an adventure of a lifetime. The trek takes you through three alpine countries — France, Italy and Switzerland — covering approximately 105 miles with a total accumulated elevation gain and loss of 32,800 feet.
The itinerary circles Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in western Europe at 15,777 feet.
For Sam Myers, 29, who doesn’t consider himself an outdoorsman — and admits he prefers the city life — the traverse signifies something more than just a hike.
“I want to encourage people to not feel afraid to step out and try new things, to not be limited by situations,” Myers said. “I’m heavily limited by health and physical situations, and I awhile ago I would have told myself I couldn’t do this.”
Myers had his first brain surgery in his late teens. He has nine masses of blood vessels in his brain, one of which grew to the size of a tennis ball and had to be removed. That surgery left half of his body paralyzed. He has since had four more brain surgeries.
Taking on a challenge like Tour du Mont Blanc includes different challenges for Myers than it might others. He cannot hit the gym hard and lift weights. He must be cautious of increasing his blood pressure too much, or he risks severe headaches and hemorrhaging.
Instead, to prepare for the adventure, Myers has been hiking in the Sheridan area, taking on trails like Soldier Ridge and those on Red Grade. When he begins the trek with his friend, Rhett Raha, in June the duo plans to conquer 7-8 miles each day, depending on how they feel.
“It’s important for people to not let a disability become a defining characteristic or to stop them from achieving their goals,” Myers said.
Raha met Myers a couple years ago at Cornerstone Church. Myers has interest in music and Raha traveled and toured as a musician before landing in Sheridan. One of the times the two met up, Myers was preparing to go into his fifth brain surgery and was feeling pretty down.
“We started talking about bucket lists and goals and dreams,” Raha said. “He was telling me about Tour du Mont Blanc, and it sounded pretty cool. I had never heard of it.”
Raha added that Myers said he’d go later, when he was older and had more money. But Raha encouraged Myers to try it now, even offering to go with him. The surgery came and went, and soon the two were making plans and booking flights.
“I’m hoping his message is heard,” Raha said of what he hopes comes out of the trip. “I’m here to support him, this is definitely his story.”
He added that on a training hike on Soldier Ridge the two talked about overcoming obstacles.
“Doctors give us these diagnoses, sometimes we’re ill or we’re dealt a bad hand, but there is also that battle between your ears, you know, in your own head,” Raha said. “That’s a battle you should never lose.”
Myers said his doctor basically told him he wouldn’t amount to anything. Now, he has a bachelor’s degree and he’s proving wrong all the things his doctor said.
“Whether you’re disabled or not, he just wants people to challenge and push themselves,” Raha said. “You can achieve more than you think you can.”
Myers has become a familiar face in the Sheridan community. While he was born in Colorado and grew up primarily in Japan, Myers and his parents moved to Sheridan around 2014. Since then, Myers has volunteered his time at places like the Sheridan County YMCA and The Hub on Smith.
He is also training to become a case manager for clients at Eagle Ridge Rehabilitative Services in Sheridan.
In his various roles in the community, people have gotten to know Myers. Those relationships are likely what helped raise $4,190 for Myers to help cover expenses for the European adventure. Myers and Raha will depart June 1 and return to the U.S. June 20.
While the trek will likely challenge both men, Raha said there are already discussions in the works on this being just the beginning as Myers has hinted at a bigger project aimed at encouraging people to push their limits.