Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Chez Donini, my winter digs, is a meeting house for climbers world-wide. Two years ago, a small crowd from Paradox Sports stayed with me. Since Ouray is the center of the ice-climbing world, they were here to climb the vertical frozen waterfalls. Paradox Sports provides inspiration, opportunities and adaptive equipment to the disabled community, allowing them the opportunity to pursue extreme outdoor sports. That's where my life and theirs intersected. My good friend Malcolm Daly lost his leg in a climbing accident in the Alaska Range about 10 years ago. He is the executive director of Paradox sports and president of Trango Sport, and because I spend winters in Ouray, Malcolm brought the Paradox crew to visit.

Malcolm Daly rock climbing

You can check them out further at:

And now two years later, the Donini home had become a rallying point for the group, and I was the fortunate recipient of a great group of friends. This weekend Chad had driven down from Salt Lake City with Scott, Gena, and Sydney to get in as much ice climbing as possible in the Ouray Ice Park. We met at the 'Schoolroom' area in the ice park, where Mark Miller, the local San Juan Mountain guide had set up ropes for the climbers. Heidi, another local woman and last year's recipient of the "Got Stump" T-shirt joined us.

Each of their stories is inspirational. My friend Chad is an Iraqi war veteran who lost his foot when a IED exploded under his Humvee. In spite of the injury, he attacks the ice with the vigor and enthusiasm of a world class athlete.

Heidi lost her leg as a baby. I watched her the other night at the big party in her parents service station garage where the population of Ouray milled around three kegs of beer, a case of whiskey and tequila, and free food. She grabbed a friend in a screaming headlock, giggling and tickling. Watching her climb ice my face broke into a broad smile.

Sydney lost her leg at the age of 6 due to a bone cancer. She is a college student, enthused to climb with her best friends. She had the coolest crampon, and Chad constantly wanted to change feet with her. I accused them of having a foot fetish: "you only want her for her foot", or "Let me give you a little foot massage."

Chad, Sydney, Heidi, and Gina
at the Ouray Ice Park

Paradox Sports had developed an ice-climbing crampon to fit on their prosthetic legs. They attach with an allen screw, so several types of devices can be used for the specific sport: rock climbing shoes, ice boots, crampons....

Chad and Sydney exchange feet...crampons

There is no pussy-footing around with this bunch. They challenge the steepest ice and most difficult routes with the rest of us.

Sydney on the Scottish Climbs

Sydney flashes a great smile!

1 comment:

james said...

that's inspiring.