Chris Waddell has made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro – as it has never been done before. Senior producer John Mondello and I were some of the first to speak to him. He sounded exhausted but contented. He said the view from the 19,340-foot summit was incredible.
It took him three days and about 22 hours of pedaling to push through the last three miles. The dense scree and sand at the top of the mountain made the going extremely difficult and slow – all at about a 45 degree angle. Chris said that he was moving about a yard a minute at one point; it was that difficult.
His friend Bob More tells me "the final 3000 feet up …were hard to walk up, never mind ride." He also said that "there were hundreds of moments that anyone else would have said, 'Forget it.' Chris just kept going."
I asked Chris what kept him going and he said that it wasn't just about him. He said that so many had poured themselves into the project, that he didn't want to let them down, so when he wanted to quit he didn't.
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
The winch system that they had hoped would give him traction on the mountain did not work as well as they had planned. But Chris soldiered on anyway, in below freezing temperatures and at an altitude where it's hard to catch your breath let alone pedal for nine straight hours. He was also severely sleep-deprived after having spent two nights above 17,000 feet where sleep is difficult.
Chris did hit a wall that neither his will nor his athleticism could get over or around. It was a wall of large boulders that were impassible by bike. Chris thought about stopping and turning around. It was only one-hundred feet out of the 19,340 foot mountain. But if he had to be helped up the boulders it would mean he would not accomplish his goal of being the first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro completely un-assisted. He decided that it was more important to ask for help, and reach the summit under different terms, than to stick to one fixed idea of what success was. So they lifted him the one hundred feet, and then he continued on his own power to the top.
In my mind that makes his journey that much more of a success. I, for one, think it was a much braver choice to ask for help. For me, it was a wiser decision to reach the same height of achievement under different terms, then to give up because your definition of success is too strict to allow you to overcome what life throws in your path, especially when you are about to reach the top of your mountain.