The modern history of paraclimbing (adaptive climbing) is often traced to Hugh Herr. In 1982, Hugh was 17 years old. That year, he and a friend embarked on an ice climb to Mount Washington, and became lost when a storm picked up. The rescue was treacherous–one rescuer died in an avalanche and Hugh lost both his legs to frostbite.
Hugh recovered and persevered in his love of climbing, and after the incident, began developing rudimentary prostheses to enable him to climb even harder than before the amputation. His prosthetic modifications allowed him to adjust his height from 5 to 8 feet, depending on the wall! Hugh went on to send and set incredibly hard routes like Vandals in the Gunks, the first 5.13 on the US East Coast.
Before Hugh was even born, there was a climber named Jim Gorin who paved the way as the first amputee rock climber. Jim lost his leg at the age of 6 due to a bone disease, but that didn’t hold him back. He not only became a prolific climber in the 1940s and 50s, but became the chairman of the rock climbing section of the Southern California Sierra Club chapter. He even met his wife at one of the meetings.
Jim owned a TV and radio repair business that required him to spend quite a bit of time balancing on top of roofs. Now there is a clever way to combine your hobby and profession!
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