Disabled climbing team reaches top of Mt. Shasta

By Jim Wasserman, The Associated Press
Monday June 03, 2002

SACRAMENTO – A four-member disabled climbing team made history early Saturday, becoming the first paraplegic climbers to reach the 14,162-foot summit of northern California’s Mt. Shasta. 

The team of climbers, each disabled in previous skiing, car and climbing accidents, reached the snowcapped peak Saturday morning, said climber Muffy Davis, 29, of Sun Valley, Idaho. 

“We’re there. We’re on the summit calling from Mt. Shasta. We are on top of the world, said Davis, a medal-winning member of the United States Disabled Ski Team. Davis suffered back injuries during a 1989 ski accident. 

“We’re still celebrating,” she said by cellular telephone from the summit. “Everyone is just high in general.” 

The group and its support team, 20 members in all, ascended the mountain during a seven-day, 4.5-mile climb using “snow pods,” hand-cranked machines similar to mini-tractors. On a web site devoted to the climb, members called their Shasta expedition “the largest paraplegic attempt ever organized in the history of mountaineering.” 

The machines, developed by Peter Rieke, 48, of Pasco, Wash., a disabled climber on the Shasta ascent and owner of Mobility Engineering, are expected to open mountaineering to more climbers with disabilities. 

Rieke, who broke his neck and back during a 1994 climb, developed the snow pods with help of friends over six years. In 1998, he ascended Oregon’s 11,240-foot Mount Hood. 

Other climbers to reach the top of Mt. Shasta on Saturday included Mark Wellman, who has climbed El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and Keegan Reilly, who reached the summit of Colorado’s 14,433-foot Mt. Elbert last summer. 

Davis said the team began its final ascent at 7 a.m. Saturday. The climbers, who carried messages of support from around the world, spent the night about 1,200 feet below the mountaintop.