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Chris Waddell uses arm power to scramble up Mount Kilimanjaro, becoming the first paraplegic athlete to reach the summit under his own steam.
Chris Waddell uses arm power to scramble up Mount Kilimanjaro, becoming the first paraplegic athlete to reach the summit under his own steam.

Paraplegic athlete reaches Kilimanjaro summit Add to ...

At 19,340 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is considered the world's highest “walkable” mountain. But don't tell Chris Waddell.

On Wednesday, Mr. Waddell became the first paraplegic, on his own power, to reach the summit of Africa's tallest peak. Using his arms, he powered himself up the steep, loose, rocky terrain in a four-wheeled handcycle called the Bomba. Mr. Waddell hopes the journey will inspire other disabled athletes to stretch their own limits.

“If they're easy challenges, they're not memorable. So you push yourself. It's about living life to the fullest,” he told Outside Magazine earlier this year.

Twenty-one years ago, on a different mountain, Mr. Waddell broke his back while skiing. He went on to become one of the most decorated Paralympians ever, winning 12 medals in downhill ski racing over four Paralympic Games. The Utah native was also named one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People.

Now 40 and retired from competitive skiing, Mr. Waddell is climbing Kilimanjaro “unassisted,” meaning using his own strength. But he's not alone. A team of filmmakers, a doctor and several Tanzanian porters are on the trip, scouting the path ahead and providing moral and technical support. The team has fashioned a winch so that Mr. Waddell can climb on a fixed rope in certain portions without slipping backward. And in rocky areas, porters placed boards on the ground to help his wheels gain traction.

On Wednesday, after six days of climbing, Mr. Waddell was unreachable by satellite phone. But Bob More, a crewmate who headed down the mountain the night before the summit attempt, left a text message on Mr. Waddell's blog saying: “Assume he summited [this morning]and is on his way down. He is unreal.”

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