Utah man becomes first paraplegic to summit Kilimanjaro

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Paralympic athlete Chris Waddell has returned from Africa, having completed one of the toughest challenges he's ever faced. He summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair.

At over 19,000 feet high, Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in Africa, and the climb wasn't easy. Waddell climbed in his four-wheeled chair to become the first paraplegic to summit the mountain.

"It's a four-wheel vehicle; you can steer with your chest in addition to the handle bars," Waddell explained.

He pedaled with his arms about nine hours a day, for eight days, on difficult terrain.

"You're going from boulder-sized rocks to some bigger rocks," Waddell said.

The decorated Paralympic athlete took on this challenge to raise awareness about others like him.

"It'll force people to look at the people with disabilities in the world a little bit differently," Waddell said.

Chris wasn't the only disabled athlete to summit. An African man, who lost his leg in a rock slide joined him.

"He's the first Tanzanian leg amputee to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro," Waddell said.

During the trip, a photographer and videographer documented the journey. They said Chris was an example to them.

"Chris never hit the wall, and it was remarkable to watch," videographer Patrick Reddish said.

Photographer Mike Stoner added, "During the roughest parts, I would look at Chris and crack a joke, and he would look at me and crack a joke back."

Now it's time to rest, but Waddell admits he'll be up to something just as adventurous soon enough.

"Hopefully something equally intriguing," he said.

Waddell and his foundation, called One Revolution Foundation, will continue donating wheelchairs to the disabled in developing countries. The Tanzanian who climbed with Waddell, the foundation bought him the prosthetic leg to do it on.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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