Chris Waddell's African Journey Begins

(CBS)
Karen Brown is a correspondent for CBS News, and blogged about Chris Waddell - as he attempts the first paraplegic summit of Kilimanjaro

The count down is on. Chris Waddell has arrived Kenya, without his gear, but safe and sound.

He'll spend the next few days getting prepped for the climb which begins on Thursday the 24th. He hopes to summit on the 28th , which is his 41st Birthday.

I spoke to him on his way from his home in Park City, Utah to the airport in Salt Lake City, and he sounded ready to go.

The guys back in Crested Butte tell me they were able to get two more four wheel bikes custom made for him, before he left. They worked around the clock - literally.

Some grant money they had been waiting for came in at the last minute, and that's why they had to scramble. One of the new vehicles was built especially for going down hill. It has special shocks to help make the trip down a little less jarring. Chris told me that going down is "really demanding, I'm kind of in a half push up position, so I'm burning my triceps, which I have already burned on the way up. And I'm not really going any faster then you would walk down."

Read Karen Brown's Story on Chris Waddell

With a laugh he said, "so I don't get any glory out of it."

Over the next few days he will be visiting with the Mobility Care - the organization he's working with in Tanzania to custom make the wheel chairs he will be delivering after the climb.

I was stunned when Chris told me that in Africa, and other parts of the world, many families believe they have been cursed by God when one of them is handicapped. Chris says the courage of those that are handicapped is extraordinary. He told me "the funny thing is, you come into this thinking that you are doing something to help someone else and I also probably end up learning more from them than they do from me"

While the producer John Mondello and I were in Crested Butte, we followed Chris up a ski run that was at least a 45 degree angle. When we got to the top, I was the most winded, even though John was working much harder because he was shooting and Chris had just wheeled himself up a mountain.

But you could see the joy on Chris' face. He turned to me and said "that is the great thing about this (the vehicle), you and I can go out at the same time and both get a work out."

Meaning the vehicle doesn't just allow him to climb mountains - it allows him to get back to the outdoors with a sense of freedom and autonomy that he pretty much lost at 20.

He added "There have been huge social advances with this vehicle, in that you and I can go hiking and we can go wherever we want to go and you don't have to worry about me."

One thing I took away from our time with Chris in the stunning Rocky Mountains - is that it's kinda crazy that so many of us with full mobility limit our dreams, when someone who is permanently limited can not only dream big but have the gumption to make it happen.

  • CBSNews.com

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