UPDATE: Chris Waddell became the first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro as of Wednesday, September 30. It took him three days, and roughly 22 hours of pedaling to make it through the last three miles, which was daunting at a 45 degree angle. This is after he and his team had weathered below freezing temperatures and sleep deprivation above 17,000 feet. Though he hit a wall of large boulders (about 100 feet) that hindered his original goal of being the first paraplegic to summit the mountain completely unassisted, his ability and willingness to ask for help to reach the summit is what makes Chris so distinctive.
Celebrities such as Jessica Biel, Kenna and Lupe Fiasco recently declared their intent to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro through Summit On The Summit next January. However, one man is climbing Africa's tallest peak (at 19,340 feet) right now -- and he's doing it paralyzed from the waist down.
Former Paralympian skier Chris Waddell is poised to become the world's first paraplegic to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro unassisted, using a customized four-wheel mountain handcycle powered by his arms (and immense willpower).
Waddell began his climb on September 24, and celebrated his 41st birthday near the summit on the 28th. The immense care and work he put into preparing for this remarkable journey was recently chronicled in a profile by Karen Brown for CBS.
It was a freak ski accident during his college years at Middlebury College that left Waddell paralyzed at age 20, but two decades and 12 Paralympic ski medals later, he is busy inspiring the world and working to remove the stigma of what it means to be handicapped.
"I hope my climb will make us see some of the 21+ million disabled people in the world in a whole new way," Waddell says.
He and his team are chronicling their efforts on One Revolution, which is Waddell's motto for the climb and life: "One revolution means so many things to me. One revolution of the handcycle, one revolution of the earth, one lifetime, one moment, one chance to make a difference." The ascent is also being captured by a film crew, to be made into a documentary also titled One Revolution.
Waddell is also working with Mobility Care, a Tanzania-based organization, on custom-making wheelchairs that will be delivered to the needy after the climb. The wheelchairs are specially designed to weather Africa's harsh environment and terrain, and made from locally available materials by local craftspeople.
If you'd like to get involved, you can donate to the One Revolution Foundation, Waddell's nonprofit organization, via PayPal or check.
As of today, Waddell and the expedition team are near the summit, and hope to reach it by tomorrow, September 30. You can follow their progress at One Revolution's Twitter account here and at the team's blog.