MEET SCOTT & SHAYNA
Scott and Shayna were both born with a disability: profound deafness. All of their lives, they have never been able to hear sound. They began using American Sign Language (ASL) as babies from their multigenerational deaf families and are bilingual in both ASL and English today. The couple met when they attended the same deaf school; Scott was 17 and Shayna was 14 and they have been together ever since. Both have master’s degrees and work as K-12 educators when not adventuring.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
In 2012, during a cross-country road trip with friends, Scott and his friends decided to climb Mount Rainier without a guide despite having zero mountaineering experience. Halfway up the mountain, shivering from the cold and lack of appropriate gear, Scott and his friends struggled to figure out how to put on crampons and rope up. After some time and less than 1,500 vertical feet from the peak, they realized that they did not have the skills, knowledge, or experience to reach the summit.
BARRIERS TO LEARNING
Scott’s Mount Rainier experience inspired him to climb more, but first he knew he needed to learn mountaineering skills. There was one problem, though: no mountaineering classes were offered in ASL, nor did he know of any other deaf mountaineers who could mentor him. Scott persisted by using unconventional methods to learn, such as YouTube videos, using paper and pen or his phone to ask questions of other mountaineers he encountered on his climbs. The more Scott learned, the more determined he was to climb the highest peaks in the world.
AND ONE BECAME TWO
Shayna was captivated by Scott’s new interest and decided to become his climbing partner despite having zero experience. In 2015, they scaled their first peak together: Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. In 2020, they became the first all-deaf team to summit Aconcagua in South America. Just a year later in 2021 they climbed Denali, becoming the first all-deaf team to reach the summit of North America’s tallest mountain.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Scott and Shayna’s true passion is in making the outdoors accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people, especially youth. To close the gap between deaf people and the outdoors, they are sharing inspirational success stories, raising awareness, improving accessibility to information, and increasing deaf and disability representation.