Determination - Amputee Climbers

Determination - Amputee Climbers

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Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering, Ice Climbing, Aid Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed, Scrambling, Via Ferrata, Canyoneering, Skiing


When we reach a base camp carrying all our junk weighing dozens of pounds, several camps up the mountain assembling and disassembling our tent night after night, we think, and we are right about that, that our life in altitude mountaineering is difficult. Choosing the altitude mountaineering as a sport is not for everyone. Now imagine all these difficulties for a amputee climber, worse!

Let's think a little bit about these humans that without many options, decided not to give up, to face the terrible problems imposed by the intertwining of their lives. A moment so horrific that almost put a definitive end to the body, and the only solution was to amputate, cut off the dead piece to continue living as a disabled person. Now let's imagine that in the life of a climber, someone who can not stay at home, which is super active by the very nature of his psychological profile, practicing the sport that is more a lifestyle than sport, should in fact be devastating. Well, they do exist, we do not need to imagine.

I selected some interesting cases. Climbers, mountaineers who lost almost everything, they lost pieces of themselves, and a case in which the climber lost both legs even with five years of age by genetic defect, and another case in which really challenges the meaning of the word "possible": A boy who was born without arms below the elbow and no legs below the knee. Unbelievable? Prepare to change your mind, let’s see some of these super humans...

Norman Croucher

Norman Croucher is the acclaimed mountain climber who, despite having two below the knee artificial legs, set out to climb just one of the world's 14 mountains which exceed 8,000 metres (about 26,250 feet) or as he put it "join the 5-mile high club". His goal truly was a near impossible dream. Born in 1941 and educated at Redruth Grammar School, both of his legs were severed below the knee by a train in 1960 after he collapsed in a drunken stupor and fell down an embankment onto a railway line in Wiltshire. He subsequently trained to be a teacher but was still determined to pursue his love of mountaineering in spite of his disability.

His climbings began in 1969 with a punishing solo 874 mile walk from John o' Groats to Land's End. He then made a score of ascents in the Alps, including the Matterhorn, Eiger and Mont Blanc. In 1978 he led a successful expedition to Peru, where he and his team ascended three mountains, including the north summit of the country's highest mountain, Huascaran, (6.654m).

In 1981 he reached the top of his first Himalayan peak, White Needle (6.706m) in Kashmir. The same year, on an expedition to Argentina, he seemed faced with failure when his left artificial leg broke because of metal fatigue, yet he set off on one leg to crawl and walk on crutches to the top of a mountain of 5.115m! The next year he succeeded on Muztagh Ata (7.546m) in China. His ascents of mountains in excess of 3.000m number eighty, including sixteen above 6.000m.

His first attempt at an 8.000 meter peak ended when he was injured by a falling rock. On his second try, the leader of a commercial expedition, having accepted fees to organise an expedition supposedly for the benefit of his clients, proceeded to the summit with a sherpa, without giving an opportunity to any clients. Norman's third attempt ended at about 7.600m because of frostbite. Not being one to give up easily, without bottled oxygen, he climbed the sixth highest mountain in the world, Cho Oyo in Tibet, which stands at 8.201m. On the descent he survived a night out at 7.800m without a tent or sleeping bag, by removing his legs and sliding inside his large, lightweight rucksack.

In the Himalayas, Karakoram, Andes, Alps, Africa, China and the Canadian Rockies, Norman encountered the usual risks of mountaineering, including huge rockfalls, crevasses, frostbite, extreme winds, avalanches, high altitude sickness and many other health hazards.

He says, "If you push yourself to the limits you must have the courage to fail sometimes, for sound reasons, not excuses. Anyone with an extreme ambition will probably have to deal with the big D - disappointment - at times. You just have to keep in shape, mentally and physically, and get up and go again."

Quite a guy!

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Ranimiro Lotufo Neto

Ranimiro Lotufo Neto

A Brazilian? Yes, Ranimiro is Brazilian, today he is just over 40 years old. He spent much of his life working as an international model, and twenty years of paragliding and hang gliding too. Everything changed in his life in 1995.

In that terrible year, while attending a paragliding competition in Andradas, southern Minas Gerais/ Brazil, during his descent he did not see a power line and was grabbed on it. Received two discharges of approximately 60,000 volts each, which caused his right leg (part of his body that got stuck in high voltage cable) to be in flames. The result was sad, leg amputation above the knee.

Only three years after the accident Ranimiro could effectively return to the professional model life, and did various jobs.

After then, his life didn’t stopped. He returned to flying, participated in challenges and set the record flight between Vila Valerio (Espirito Santo state) and Conceição do Capims (Minas Gerais state), 122 kms flight. Participated in a rafting competition which until then he never did in his life before, and he did that in Nepal!

Well, the cool thing is that he returned to the mountains because of his love for paragliding. Last year he climbed the Dedo de Deus (God’s Finger) in Rio de Janeiro to be able to jump from its summit. And for those who think he used a ascensor to the climb, no, he actually climbed the mountain! The takeoff was not perfect and he nearly collided with the wall, but in the end all worked out!

Watch the video of Ranimiro’s climb and take off from Dedo de Deus:

Stephen Ball

Stephen is British and has not had much luck in his attempt to climb Denali, the highest mountain in North America, with 6.194 meters of altitude, in 1999.

Stephen fell no less than six hundred meters while on the mountain. He was found after several hours with third degree frostbites in both hands. Unhappiness for Ball.

He was rescued and hospitalized, but was too late to save your hands completely. The left hand was almost completely severed, and the right hand lost all five fingers. He also lost part of his nose and left leg, which suffered 12 fractures in several places and because of so many injuries, it froze too. Well he suffered an ordeal in the mountain and his body had to be shredded.

Unlucky but not defeated! Ball spent long time in physiotherapy, proved several prostheses until he reached the final stage, after choosing the right ones, he literally adapted prostheses hands with ice axes for ice climbing.

Ball climbs today and he has passed the age of fifty!

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Zsolt Eross

Eross is a well lnown person around Himalaia region, 8000m+ seeker. For those who do not know, he was the first Hungarian to summit Everest. Well, we don’t need to go much further than that, Eross has climbed 9 out of the 14 peaks over eight thousand meters, the highest mountains in the world.

In 2010 his life changed radically in the mountains in circumstances very similar to that of Mark Inglis we will see below, a terrible avalanche hit him and it resulted in the amputation of his right leg just below the knee. And don’t think that was in great mountains, he was in the High Tatras, whose highest peak is 2.655 meters above sea level, slightly lower than our tenth highest brazilian peak: 3 EstadosPeak in Sierra Fina range.

His accident occurred in January 2010 and his recovery was amazing, in June of the same year, now with a prosthetic leg, tried to climb Cho Oyu, and probably would have summited if not for bad weather, getting to 7.100 meters of altitude.

Unhappiness in weather conditions do not shake him, using his prosthetic Eross climbed Lhotse in the spring of last year, 2011.

There is no joke in that! Mr. Zsolt has only 44 years old, so he is in the golden age of 8000m+ climbs, has many years ahead of climbing and successes to be!

A movie was made about his career in the mountains, called "The Snow Leopard Stands". Watch the trailer for the documentary:

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Eross Zsolt was killed in an avalanche in Kangchenjunga in may 20 - 2013.

Mark Inglis

Perhaps you've heard of this guy (probably you did), because he was the first two-legged amputee to climb Everest. When he did, he wore prosthetics on both legs below the knee.

The accident Inglis suffered was in mountaineering. He lost his two legs below the knee in 1982, by frostbite, when climbing Mount Cook, the highest point in New Zealand, and got stuck in the middle of the climb because of strong storms. Inglis was nothing less then two weeks in a cave on the ice, fighting for his life, along with his climbing partner, Phil Doole.

As much as devastating and suffering, the experience didn’t pushed the New Zealand man out of the mountains. In 2004 Mark climbed Cho Oyu to train, a mountain of 8.201 meters of altitude. Twenty-four years after losing his legs, Inglis faced a major challenge for any climber and left for the expedition on Everest with the aid of carbon fiber prostheses.

The year was 2006, his personal achievement, one of the most voracious seasons on Everest and across Himaiala. Still, Inglis overcame adversity and summited Everest, marking a new chapter in the history of 8000m+ climbs. Just a detail, after making to the top he managed to descend to camp four, but there he could no longer stand up in pain. Had to be carried and dragged down the mountain. Coming home he was hospitalized, spent a few weeks recovering in hospital after losing a couple more inches on each leg for frostbite again!

Documentary: The Discovery produced a documentary called "Everest, Beyond the limit", which records the difficulties of eleven people from an expedition attempting to climb the mountain, including Inglis. The documentary is divided into three seasons with several episodes each, and Inglis is in the first season.

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Hugh Herr

Herr's life changed still very early, when he was only 17 years old. With a friend as partner, he went to New Hampshire to climb and eventually got isolated and imprisoned because of storms. The result was unfortunate, both legs amputated.

Today Herr is 47 years old, is a renowned scientist and works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the famous MIT), where he participated in the development of different prostheses using in his day to day life, but not just at home, climbing too!

Herr never stopped climbing, continues his passion today and recommended to anyone who wants the sport that gave him strength to continue life as close to normal as possible.

For Herr, to climb is more than a sport, it is pleasure, a way of life, and a way to improve the prostheses in favor of other persons who have, in his words: "As all processes that interfere imperceptibly in the human body at every step, twist and jump, could be controlled by a computer?" He dreams of prostheses that allow accident victims, amputees and war veterans to regain their freedom of movement.

"Forward" is the word you hear from Herr after completing his calculations of how to perform a rock climb, he takes a wrench from his pocket and complete: "I just need to tighten my legs."

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Kyle Maynard

This one really impresses me. Kyle suffered congenital amputation. Born without arms and without half of his legs below the knee. Torso, head and four "Stubbs". Still, that was not enough reason for limiting the athlete. Since a kid threw himself in the world, became martial arts fighter, released a book and he is a photographic model, and lives lecturing on motivational themes.

Besides having an exemplary life, won the ESPN Espy for best athlete with a disability in 2004, when he was just 18 years old! Although not mountaineer, engaged in an different adventure, reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro he would be able to prove that he could do it, in addition to raising funds for the Association of American Military Wounded Veterans.

That cost him very heavy training, but the dream was achieved without much difficulty. In January this year in just 10 days (16 days expected) Kyle did make it to Kilimanjaro summit, using tires as protection against injury cuts. He dragged himself to the summit! Impressive no?

Today Kyle is only 26 years old, and he has a lot ahead of him!

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Spencer West

Not unlike others, his goal was also Kilimanjaro. In a genetic problem similar to Kyle, West lost his legs when he was five years old, completely, not even a twinge was left behind. When looking at his photos, the impression is that your body is literally cut off at the waist. It seems like he's in a hole in the ground making a joke with the viewer, but he is really like that.

West became a very charismatic figure and draws stares wherever he goes, and interviews too. Not much different from the other cases presented, he became a celebrity, and eventually establishing a phrase as the “mojo” of the warrior: "Redefining the Impossible." The phrase also became the main title of his charity campaign.

Moreover, with the climb, Spencer raised funds for the nonprofit org “Free The Children”, which cares for needy children throughout the African continent. The entire mission was funded through crowdfunding, nearly $ 500,000 in donations! Half a million dollars! Great deal of money!

Any future projects? Ask Spencer himself!

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Last words...

Well, the cases are really impressive and I selected just a few, a lot more guys like these out there. I was looking at Para-Olympics and the idea came to me to write about this issue. I'm sad to see that the coolest part of the world sports competitiveness, the Para-Olympics, didn’t even draw attention of the major TV stations in my country. Probably it doesn’t give as much money as the regular Olympics right?

The perseverance of such humans impresses me. My head is down to these examples and I feel extremely honored if one day I bump into one of these figures in the mountains of the world...

At the beginning of the text I said to reflect a little on these guys. You can start to think right now.



Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 25

Marcsoltan - Oct 23, 2012 10:24 am - Voted 10/10

Thank you...

Paulo! Thank you for doing inspirational articles like this.
You are the best.


PAROFES - Oct 23, 2012 11:37 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Thank you...

Thank you Marc for reading it and leave such cool comment!

Ejnar Fjerdingstad

Ejnar Fjerdingstad - Oct 28, 2012 10:40 am - Voted 10/10

Amazing people!

What determination they must have, one cannot help admiring them, and wondering what one would have done in their place.
Great article!


PAROFES - Oct 28, 2012 11:22 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Amazing people!

Thas was precisely what drove me to write about them!
Thanks Ejnar.


macintosh - Oct 28, 2012 1:15 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Amazing people!

Good job, Paolo !


PAROFES - Oct 28, 2012 2:39 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Amazing people!

Thanks buddy!


markhallam - Oct 28, 2012 2:18 pm - Voted 10/10

Great article Paulo - but... missed someone!

How about Norman Croucher? He lost both legs in an accident at the age of 19 - then took up climbing. He climbed in the Alps, Andes & Himalayas through 1970's & 1980's - 1st Brit to climb Muztagh Ata. I had the privilage of being with him on Broad Peak in 1987, when we all (including Norm) reached nearly 7000m. I have since fallen out of touch, but I do know that he eventually got his 8-thousander - summiting Cho-Oyu.

Here is his website address:

Best wishes


PAROFES - Oct 28, 2012 2:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great article Paulo - but...

Well Mark, I am very glad you had the chance to meet in person one of those heroes!
But remember, I presented just a few cases, probably there is a lot more out there...I probably missed not someone, dozens of them! :)


MoapaPk - Oct 28, 2012 4:43 pm - Voted 10/10

Think outside the box

I never lost a limb; however, I did lose the fine motor control over the right side of my body. I was offered the chance to have myself declared disabled, but it was too inconsistent with the life I planned to lead.

I have absolutely no desire to be seen as different. But I do wish to point out that an obvious physical disability can sometimes be advantageous over a crushing neurological condition that does not involve loss of limb. I have no proprioception in my right hand or leg, but have gone on to do much more than I did when I was "whole." Six months after my brain damage, I was in line at the grocery, in front of a fat man in a wheelchair. I had a very hard time signing my name on the VISA receipt. The man behind me burst forth angrily, "can't you see that I'm crippled?" He didn't like waiting the extra 4 seconds it took to sign my name. Yes, I could see very well that he was crippled in his legs and fatness, and chose a life of wallowing self-pity and his infirmity... but he didn't see my infirmity. And after 10.5 years, I prefer to let people think I am normal.

My brother lost a leg in an accident, and I admire him greatly for the things that he has done since. But he never suffered crushing vertigo, nor complete loss of balance, and even his upper leg has the proprioception that I lack.

No sympathy for me, please; I detest it. But remember that many of those out there who look "whole" suffer as badly than those who are missing limbs.


PAROFES - Oct 28, 2012 6:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Think outside the box

Hello Moa,

Believe me, I have thought about this point of view, that's why I wrote JUST about AMPUTEE climbers. Never got into other disability because the text would just be too big.
Either way, thank you for pointing out this point of view. I think you're much better than me to share this kind of knowledge anyway...
Best wishes


CClaude - Oct 28, 2012 8:52 pm - Hasn't voted

A couple of side notes

For Hugh Herr, after his amputation, he did two amazing routes of note ( among his MANY ofthe accomplishments both climbing and engineering ).The first is the second ascent of City Park. City Park is a 5.13d fingers/ tips crack. Many disputenhis ascent saying his was with aid ( since his prosethetics fit in the cracks). My response is go cut off your own damn legs and do the climb. The other biggie is Stage Fright 5.12d X, a route that took 20 yrs to see a second ascent. Not only is he a kick ass climber, but a world class engineer,.


CClaude - Oct 28, 2012 9:02 pm - Hasn't voted

Also to add to the list is

Also to add to list is Nawang Sherpa. He lost his legs in an accident in the early 2000's and then came back to summit Everest in a small expedition with Tom McMillan from the Bay Area. Given the incredible nature of such acomp lishments are for amputees in the Western world, we souldn't overrlook the accomplishments of those athletes in countries without the access tothe rehabilitation that many of us have....

And have to say that Spencer Wests acomplishment is probably the most ammazing. A double amputee at the waist to do Kili....think of the perseverence....major kudos to you all.....


PAROFES - Oct 29, 2012 6:05 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Also to add to the list is

Thanks Claude for the great adds! Remembr, just like I said to Mark: "But remember, I presented just a few cases, probably there is a lot more out there...I probably missed not someone, dozens of them!"


Fletch - Oct 29, 2012 3:06 pm - Voted 10/10

Thanks Paulo

Humbling reminder of how blessed we all are and how some people redefine inspiration.


PAROFES - Oct 29, 2012 3:15 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Thanks Paulo

That's it James, you got it.
Know what? The other day I was watching NatGeo, a show about a portuguese middle aged man who had no face due to a tumor, huge, about 4,5kgs. "The man who lost his face".
After that you know what I thought?
"Damn, I 'm glad my problem is on my bone marrow..."
PS: Your friend never wrote me!


jacobsmith - Oct 29, 2012 8:45 pm - Voted 10/10

Some Doubts

I don't want to minimize what these men have gone through, climbing is hard enough with four fully functioning limbs, but i don't think people should be getting so famous just because they got injured one time. mediocre, walk-up route climbs are still just that, even if you have a prosthetic limb or two.
Aron Ralston is a perfect example: the guy was an egocentric fool before he did something dumb and had to cut off his arm, and now he makes tens of thousands of dollars while much better climbers starve in obscurity.
I don't mean to be contrary, but i really wonder about our fascination with disfigurement and feel-good stories of "incredible odds."


PAROFES - Oct 30, 2012 7:49 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Some Doubts

You have a valid point of view, but think about the pain those people went through in the frostbite, cutting it off, and after that climbing over it...
Inglis had to be carried down the mountain, he just couldn't take any more pain and ended up losing another peace of both legs...
Unfortunately media likes this sort of thing, that's the reason they get famous.


kpthomson - Oct 30, 2012 11:59 am - Hasn't voted


Very Inspirational.


PAROFES - Oct 30, 2012 4:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Inspirational

Thank you, glad you like it.

Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis - Oct 31, 2012 6:33 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Incorrect Information

Ok so maybe there is a mistake in one of the stories, that does not discredit the article. My brother always tells me to do your own research if you want to verify a story or not. This article was written by a passionate writer who wanted the amputee's stories to be heard. This is definitely a unique article that is worthy for folks to read. Although accurate facts are important, the most important thing though is the theme and message behind it. Parofes, don't let folks discourage you from writing. People in the past have tried that with me, but I persisted though it. :-)

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