Paraplegic Climber Summits Kilimanjaro

Twenty-one years after he was paralyzed in a skiing accident, Chris Waddell took on the most grueling challenge of his life.

CBS News correspondent Karen Brown has been following Waddell's attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro in a modified wheelchair - from start to triumphant finish.

With brute force and unyielding determination, Chris Waddell triumphed over Mt. Kilimanjaro.

"It was just sort of a sense of astonishment," Waddell said. "It was really, really challenging."

It was a grueling seven-day climb for the 41-year-old paraplegic, on a custom-made four-wheel mountain bike.

With just his arms and his courage Waddell progressed, at times only moving a foot a minute up the 19,340 foot mountain. Via satellite phone from Tanzania, he compared it to drowning a few feet from shore.

"You feel like you are digging trenches, and going no where," he said of the climb.

More coverage of Waddell:

Waddell Reaches Kilimanjaro's 19,340-foot Summit
Waddell Summit Update, 9/28
Waddell Summit Update, 9/25
Waddell Summit Update, 9/23
Waddell Summit Update, 9/21 Late
See Karen Brown's profile of Chris Waddell
Read Karen Brown's profile of Chris Waddell

Sometimes assisted by a winch, other times helped by a team of 50, who used boards like railroad tracks to give him traction through the thick sandy soil, Waddell made his ascent.

He trained for two years in Colorado and told us before he left for Africa - he was ready.

But less then 2,000 feet from the summit, this Paralympic champion hit a field of boulders even he couldn't get over. Instead of turning back, he made a tough choice and asked to be carried for just 100 feet.

That meant he wouldn't become the first paraplegic to do it entirely on his own.

"There was that sense of heartbreak and that sense of a little bit of defeat at that point," he said. "But I think the idea was to make it to the top, and that sometimes you have to compromise a little bit."

Waddell survived the equally difficult trip down.

"Going down is sooo punishing," he said. "I'm just getting jarred around the whole time."

He kept going, for himself and for children like nine-year-old Masufu, who are helped by Waddell's One Revolution Foundation - and by his example.

He wants people to see past the limitations to the possibilities…

"That people look at the next person with a disability and that they see it's not a matter of 'Oh that's too bad, look at what you've lost,' it's, 'Well, what are you going to do?' - That people look at it and say 'Ok, you can do whatever you want,' is what I am saying"

He climbed to the tallest peak in Africa to be heard.
  • Ken Millstone

    Ken Millstone is an assignment editor at CBSNews.com

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