Tara Butcher ran the NYC marathon, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro and cycled down the coast of California. She discovered her inner athlete and conquered all of these goals after a terrible car accident almost took her life and left her as a below knee amputee in 2005.

The next challenge at the top of her bucket list reaches 14,505 feet, the tallest peak in the U.S. – Mt. Whitney.

Tara and three other women will be hiking Mt. Whitney together on October 3, 2017. Here is our Q&A with Tara where she shares her purpose for this challenge and the journey so far:

1) What prompted this great challenge?
Mt. Whitney has been on my bucket list since I listened to my friend Blair Cannon talk about his experience five years ago. It’s a lottery system to get hiking access to the mountain, and my friend Jessica applied this year with success and invited me to join. I excitedly said, “Yes!”. This year I turned 35 and decided it was time to start checking off the bucket list – so far so good!

2) Why Mt. Whitney and which route will you be taking? 
Mt. Whitney is somewhat local with only a five-hour drive from San Diego. I love a good challenge, the photos I’ve seen look incredibly beautiful and it’s also the highest peak in the U.S. We are hiking up and down in one day on the Mt. Whitney trail which is 22 miles in total.

3) What has your training/preparation been like?
I’ve been staying in cardiovascular shape with spinning, running and yoga. On the weekends, I’m doing 8-14 mile hikes to train my hiking muscles and get used to the long duration on my feet (well, foot for me!) and breaking in my hiking boots.

4) What can’t you live without for this hike?
I would have to say my hiking poles. They are so helpful in getting up and down the technical parts of the hikes and have saved me from falling many times! Wearing a prosthetic can make things tricky with balance and stability and they provide the extra support I need. Also, my hiking shoes. Proper fitting hiking shoes are a must!

5) Who is a part of your climbing crew?
It will be four ladies. Jessica, Megan, Casey and myself. This will be Jessica’s 3rd time summiting Mt. Whitney, but a first for the rest of us.

6) What is your past hiking experience?
I trained for Kilimanjaro for a few months before summiting in January 2010. I hadn’t hiked much since then until I was back in Tanzania this June. There is something about that place that makes me want to connect more to nature. When I got back home, Jessica offered me a spot for Mt. Whitney and of course I was in!

7)  What role has CAF played in your athletic endeavors?
CAF has completely introduced me to my athletic endeavors. Before becoming an amputee in 2005, I had never participated in sports and had no idea I had an athlete in me. It was all sparked when I got my first grant for a running leg in 2007 and it was then that I discovered my inner athlete.

8) What have you gained most from the experience so far?
I’m loving the Mt. Whitney training because I love to be in nature and there’s something special about getting up before sunrise and starting our hikes. Also, the best part of all has been my hiking companions. We have so much fun and laughter, and encourage each other to keep going. They make six hour hikes feel like a breeze. I believe life is not all about what you accomplish, but who you choose to spend your time with. I hope to inspire others to follow their bucket lists and dreams.

Tara has worked as a hairdresser in La, Jolla, CA for the last 14 years and serves as a spokesperson for CAF, inspiring people of all abilities to live an active lifestyle and to create a life they love.

Connect to CAF’s social media @CAFoundation and Tara Butcher to follow her all the way to the top.

Help other athlete’s check items off their bucket list: