Standing at a tall 19,341 feet above sea level, the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro can bring even the most seasoned athletes to their knees. That is, unless you are Spencer West, and you in fact have no knees at all.
Spencer, a double amputee of the legs who lost his legs at five years old, took a daring challenge that most would shy away from, climbing up the tallest mountain in Africa in Kilimanjaro. While the feat in itself would be impressive, Spencer was able to do it by redefining the possible; he climbed it on his hands. Climbing 80% of the way solely off the use of his hands Spencer faced serious fatigue, numbing of the hands, and severe elbow and shoulder pains. In an inspiring and courageous spurt he put the pain in the back of his mind and finished the climb to the peak, only needing his friends to carry him a small fraction of the way.
Besides being an inspiration and a model of what one can do regardless of their disabilities, Spencer’s courageous climb helped generate $500,000 (and counting!) towards the Free the Children Foundation. Way to be, Spencer!
For more information on how to help the Free the Children Foundation and Spencer on his “Redefine Possible” quest, visit www.freethechildren.com/redefinepossible.
“I set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro not only to redefine what’s possible for me, but to inspire others to overcome obstacles and challenges of their own and to give back to communities that need our help,” said West. “Reaching the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have ever done, but in doing so, it reinforced the powerful message behind believing in myself and believing in others. So many people made this journey possible for me and I am so humbled by everyone’s support.”
Check out this short clip of Spencer describing his amazing climb:
If you think that’s cool, check out this clip from The Ski Channel’s very own feature film Winter, showing a group of warriors from Disabled Sports USA whom accomplished the same feat, the tiresome climb up Kilimanjaro. The difference? These men and women complete the climb on prosthetic legs!
Kirk Bauer, the Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA, took a group of disabled mountain climbing enthusiasts under his wing to prepare and climb Kilimanjaro. Bauer lost a leg serving a tour in Vietnam, and states that recovering from such a life changing obstacle is in the group of most difficult of struggles one can endure, mentally and physically.
As you’ll see in the video, Bauer gives specific praise to a man named Neil Duncan, who was blown up in Afghanistan during the war and lost both his legs. On the brink of death, Neil fought back courageously and got back into sports in no time. In his haste and excitement to start his life on his new prosthetic legs, Duncan decided he wanted to climb Kilimanjaro.
Doing the climb on an impressive two-prosthetic legs, his first attempt proved to be a struggle and he made it 16,000 feet up before he could go no higher, which in itself is astonishing. Unsatisfied in his first try, Duncan found Kirk Bauer and Disabled Sports USA for more training and help in order to complete his goal; the entire climb to the often unreached peak.
“Sometimes its two steps forward and one step back. You are going to face situations where you are going to be disappointed or discouraged or defeated but don’t let that stop you…pick yourself back up, and go on, and Neil made it to the top.”