October 14, 2010
It's going to take a while to upload all the photos and videos from our summit day. In the meantime, let me tell you a bit about one of our more experienced soldiers. It's been over a year since we first met and teamed up to climb a famous 365-foot ice climb outside Telluride, Colorado called Bridal Veil Falls. During that ascent, Chad impressed me with his level-headedness and willpower. So it's no surprise that he was right there with us at the top of Lobuche!
In December 2006, Chad was commanding a convoy in Northern Iraq, riding in front in a light medium tactical vehicle. Suddenly, there was a loud boom and flash of light when his truck hit and anti-tank mine. He recalls, “I had this calm realization, ‘This is it. I’m along for the ride.’ The next thing I knew, I was hanging outside the truck.” In an instant, his right femur was broken and his heel shattered.
Quickly, Chad was flown back to his base at Camp Speicher, where surgeons attached an external fixator consisting of four pins and an external rod to his mangled leg. Soon he was moved to Germany and eventually the William Beaumont Army Medical Center, in El Paso, Texas.
Over the next few months, he would undergo four surgeries to repair his leg. But when MRSA, a resistant staph infection, set in, Chad had to decide between yet another operation with a cadaver bone or amputation below the knee. He says, “I was very opposed at first, however after talking to some amputee climbers I realized I was making the decision between being an amputee or a cripple. I promptly chose to get rid of my foot.”
An active climber before joining the Army, only six weeks after the amputation, and one day after receiving his first prosthesis, Chad went climbing in a rock gym. It was a struggle at first, requiring a lot of hard work and learning about how deal with his new reality. Chad now feels, “I am mentally stronger now than I was before. The experience has strengthened my resolve to get out and climb.”
That resolve has led Chad to the summit of Mount Rainier (14,411 feet), up Bridal Veil Falls with me, and to attempt the Moose’s Tooth in Alaska with Chad Butrick. He is an active volunteer with Paradox Sports, an organization that helps disabled athletes experience the outdoors. He says, “It's a great group, and I'm looking forward to continued involvement so I can help other people with disabilities experience the same thing. Getting into the outdoors is a great confidence builder for anyone with a disability. It helps to restore self confidence, pride, and independence.”
Here is some video of our ascent of Bridal Veil Falls: