Some of you may know that I was involved in an effort to climb Mt. Denali (McKinley)
with a group of disabled veterans. Details about the trip can be found here:
I was forced through the wise decision-making of our guide, Kirby Senden
, to abandon the climb on the 14th of June, having reached just over 16k feet and the top of the fixed lines (what I viewed as my major challenge) during our forward carry up there, on suspicion of my potential to develop (but not actual) high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE
) if I were to go higher. I've coined this potential "Statutory HAPE" (sorry--groan if you need to; please don't be offended). It's surprising that after all of this, the difficulty that forced me off the mountain was not arm-related.
Not knowing how much longer the climb would take (the team left for high camp with a week's worth of food), and being able to offer no more than moral support, I elected to catch a "ride" (under my own power) off the mountain with Leighan from AMS and Tyler from RMI (another guide service). I stayed at 14 camp another night before leaving, not really feeling all that bad, and left the evening after the rest of the team left for 17 camp. Descent improved things further, and I felt even better pretty quickly. After a marathon descent from 14 camp to base camp from 8 pm to 5 am or so the next morning, a plane ride off the mountain, a caribou burger and beer in Talkeetna, drive to Anchorage and flight to RDU, I found myself surreally back in Durham, NC, by the evening of the 15th, feeling a little like I'd been kicked out of school. I was able to pick my son up from basketball camp yesterday night (the 15th).
The Spot tracker for the team is located here
, but there are blog updates (and links on that page as well) to updates from the DoD at Defenselink
, and from the Alaska Mountaineering School,
our guide service.
Wondering what any of this has to do with Open Prosthetics? The arm I used, made by myself and the Duke prosthetists (contracted by the VA), was based on some prototypes I'd made for the DARPA RP2009 project. What I learned from testing on the trip I'd like to put into the final generation suspension prototype, all of which will be wrapped up with RP2009 this calendar year, and which we can hopefully figure out a way to incorporate into commercially available arms as soon as possible.
I learned a lot about materials and the suitability of conventional prosthetic arms for this extreme environment, and I'll document all of it and talk to any of you who are interested in details if you must know sooner. I contacted Malcom Daly
through Paradox Sports
for ideas, and was unsuccessful at contacting Aron Ralston
due to a trip he was on before we left. I'd like to try to centralize on Open Prosthetics what I've learned about climbing with a prosthetic arm and the solutions and equipment that make it possible, and would certainly like to hear from others who've tried similar things either here or through the wiki. (It's worth noting here, by the way, that I understand that Aron successfully solo climbed a more difficult route and skied down Denali last year. We're not claiming to have attempted any firsts for the team, by any means.)
Thanks to all of our sponsors
, and best to the team, which, as I write this, is less than 1/4 mile from the summit, according to the Spot feed
. While I'm obviously pretty disappointed not to still be there trying for the summit, I'm very proud of what the team has (and will have) accomplished.
I view this as just the beginning steps in trying to deal with our respective challenges, and think that there is a lot that we can learn to make these (and the most basic of) tasks easier for others.