Alpine Tower Climbing with a Spinal Cord Injury

The 60 foot tall Alpine Tower

Matthew and Dennis (with paraplegia) and Dave (with a lower limb prosthesis) took part in the April, 2004 Alpine Tower Climb at Warren Wilson College, NC. along with many able-bodied students and individuals.

The Tower's Ramp

The climb starts almost directly underneath the 60 foot tower, but you have to go over some tower bracing timbers to get there. The ramp gets wheelchairs over the timbers.

Putting on the climbing harness

Everyone wears a safety harness. Matthew is getting his chest harness adjusted here. There are a few more straps for Matthew, but the harnesses for everyone are basically the same.

Triple-checking the harness

The equipment is checked and double-checked and even triple-checked to make certain that the climb will be a safe one.

Dee carries extra hardware for any situation.

Look at the equipment that lady carries! Dee is one of the Alpine Climb instructors and carries a lot of hardware in order to be prepared for any situation.

Guy using a handlebar ascender to climb

Guy is showing how Dennis and Matthew will climb. He is using a "handlebar ascender" to pull himself up. Another student keeps the line taut so that Guy can slide the ascender upward for the next "pull".

Dennis on his way up.

Dennis would be in a straighter sitting position if his leg straps were situated higher up on his legs. Still, he's coming up in the world.

The first platform at 20 feet.

Matthew is almost up to the first platform. It's a nice place to sit and rest after ascending about fifteen feet.

A 4 to 1 pulley system makes hoisting easier.

Guy is using a pulley system that gives a 4 to 1 lifting advantage. If he weighs 160 pounds, the pulley reduces his effort to 40 pounds for each pull. He "pays" for that advantage by pulling the rope four times the total distance that he rises.

It pays to pace yourself

It really pays to pace yourself as you pull. It is easy to start out pulling too fast. You can get tired quickly. It's better to start slow so that you can make it all the way to the top.

Matthew is up to the first platform

Matthew is up to the first platform. The Tower has many different climbing challenges. Some are easy and some are really tricky.

Guy sitting on the platform.

Participants with differing physical capabilities develop compassion, care, respect, and understanding of each other due to the fact that their safety depends on working together toward a common goal.

Good arm strength helps

Matthew has passed the first platform and is headed toward the top of the tower. It doesn't hurt to have good arm strength. Matthew keeps in top shape by participating in races with a racing wheelchair.

Teamwork is part of the lesson.

Dennis is getting close to the top here. Just a few feet more and he will be as high as the ropes and pulleys go. He'll need a little team help to get up the last three feet to the platform. Close team-work is one of the things that you learn on the Alpine climb.

The last ten feet for Matthew

As Matthew climbs the last ten feet you can see some of the other challenges of the tower designed for both novices and experts. How would you like to climb that freely swinging tree trunk?

The top of the Tower

Dennis finally makes it to the top. He did it safely because of the help from all of the team.

Matthew grins at the top of the tower

The whole gang had a great time and everyone learned some new skills and gained a few insights about each other. Matthew just had to grin up at the top. It was a blast.