Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE- In this June 13, 2012, file photo provided by Disabled Sports USA, members of Warfighter Sports Denali Challenge set up tents attempting to climb Mount McKinley in Alaska. The five men, all severely wounded in war, including four who had amputations, had to abandon their climb of North America's tallest peak, but say it was weather and not their disabilities that ended the summit attempt. The five men descended Alaska's Mount McKinley on Monday, July 2. (AP Photo/Disabled Sports USA, File)
Weather, not disabilities, end Mount McKinley climb
Wounded warriors » Five men, all severely wounded in war, had to abandon their climb.
First Published Jul 04 2012 11:34 am • Last Updated Jul 04 2012 11:35 am

Anchorage, Alaska • Five men all severely wounded in war, including four who had amputations, had to abandon their climb of North America’s tallest peak, but say it was weather and not their disabilities that ended the summit attempt.

The five men descended Alaska’s Mount McKinley on Monday. The climb of the 20,320-foot mountain started on June 11.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

They spent nine days waiting out weather at the 14,200-foot level. On Saturday, they again attempted to make 16,200 feet, but were turned back by a blizzard.

The expedition was also close to running out of food and time on their climbing permits, factors that led to the decision to end the attempt.

Climber Stephen Martin, 42, isn’t calling it defeat; he calls his encounter with Mount McKinley a tie. "I took everything it could give me, we just ran out of time," he said Tuesday by telephone from his home in Phoenix.

There were two double leg amputees and two above-the-knee amputees on the climb. All were wounded in wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan. The climb was organized by Disabled Sports USA and its Warfighter Sports program.

"I can say it is absolutely the most nerve-racking, exciting, exhausting, challenging experience I’ve ever had," said Kirk Bauer, a climber who is also the CEO of Disabled Sports USA. The Baltimore man lost a leg to a grenade in Vietnam in 1969.

The climb was intended to inspire others who have been or will be wounded in wars that they can still lead active lives.

Even though they didn’t summit Mount McKinley he hopes the attempt still sends a strong message to the wounded and disabled to "chose to drive forward to success and not to accept the disability as something that defeats them."

There were worries about what the cold might do to the prosthetics the men were using to climb.


story continues below
story continues below

Bauer said they held up surprisingly well. The single-leg amputees needed to constantly recharge batteries that run computers to aid the knee unit since the cold on the mountain zapped their power quickly.

They even brought along solar charges, but were worried how they might act. "When the sun came out, it was so bright that the solar chargers went crazy," Bauer said.

One problem, which was expected, were the pressure sores and abrasions from where the men’s artificial limbs met their prosthetics, exacerbated by carrying backpacks weighing up to 70 pounds and pulling a sled with another 60 pounds of gear.

"They take a real beating," Bauer said of the legs.

The group actually made it to the 15,500 foot level before they turned around. It was on the descent back to camp at 14,200 feet when Martin injured himself when his foot got jammed in a hole and was severely twisted.

He tried to sleep off the injury, but could hardly walk the next day.

Guides put him into a large sled and led him down the mountain.

Martin, a retired Army corporal who went back to Afghanistan as a contractor, lost both his legs in a roadside bomb attack.

He said the first day in the sled, going from 14,200 feet to 11,000 feet, was "hell ... terrifying because the conditions were so bad." The snow was 5-to-8 feet deep in spots, and the guide leading him kept sinking into the snow, and they were two feet from the ledge of a cliff. He was in the sled, using his ski poles to help push along on the treacherous part of the mountain, which has claimed six lives this year.

But from 11,000 feet down, he said they were just flying down and said it was "so much fun," reaching rest camps two-to-three hours ahead of everyone else.

Jesse Acosta, 34, the only team member will all his limbs, suffered permanent damage to his back, hip, leg and arm from a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.