When Spencer West was just five years old, he was diagnosed with a rare spinal defect that resulted in the amputation of both his legs. However, the young Canadian has never let this minor disability get in his way. He has proved that he can do anything a person with two legs can do including, climb the world's highest free-standing snow covered equatorial mountain - Mt. Kilimanjaro!
Spencer's seven-day adventure to get to the top of the 19,341 feet high peak began on June 13th from the tiny village of Naro Moru in Kenya. The team that included his best pals David Johnson and Alex Meers began by trekking through a tropical rainforest that reminded Spencer of his home state of British Columbia. However, within a few hours the comforting canopy gave way to an arid desert, from which the impossibly high mountain tip was very visible, reminding the Canadian of the difficult task that lay ahead.
For the first few days, Spencer trekked 80 percent of the rocky terrain with his gloved hands. Only when it became absolutely impossible would the amazing man use the custom-made wheelchair or the help of his two friends. As would be expected, the nights were not particularly restful either - The ground underneath was rocky and the temperatures around colder then expected.
Hard as it was, Spencer did not waver from the end goal even once. However, as the terrain started becoming steeper and rockier, their guide Paul De Angelis became concerned about him - For even though Spencer had spent over a year training for this event, he was worried that his hands would sustain some serious injuries if he continued at that pace.
Paul therefore insisted that the disabled climber cut back his independent ascent to half day and be carried the other half. While Spencer agreed, this was not as easy as it had appeared to be - That's because in some areas the route was so narrow that it was not possible to carry the custom steel frame attached to his wheelchair.
The only way to get around this as Spencer later joked, was to swaddle him up like a baby, and strap him on to the back of one of his teammates. While he had no choice but to accept this, Mr. West did insist on walking the last stretch into camp each night.
Things got tougher and tougher as they got closer to the summit. As the air got thinner, his pals suffered from severe altitude sickness and they were so low on energy that conversation of any sort came to a halt - They needed all their stamina to keep going. Spencer who walked in spurts of 10-15 minutes before stopping to rest, says that the only thought in his mind was to move ahead, one hand at a time.
But, it was all worth it - On June 18th, flanked by this friends, Spencer West 'Redefined Possible' by scaling Africa's highest peak with his bare hands! What's even more amazing is that whilst doing this, he also raised $500,000 USD to support clean water projects for the local communities in Kenya. While that is a lot of money, it is short of his original goal of raising $750,000 USD and he is hoping that people will continue to contribute. To read more about Spencer West's amazing climb and the cause he is so passionate about, check out www.freethechildren.com.