First paraplegic leads climb on Yosemite route

Patagonia posted a fascinating story today about the first paraplegic to lead climb.

Leading a climb — climbers call this being on the sharp end of the rope because it is dangerous and requires intense focus — is challenging for anyone. (An aside: I love that phrase. The sharp end. It’s so descriptive.)

Sean O’Neill, who is paralyzed from the waist down, used a new, innovative climbing system to climb a route in Yosemite.

A selection from the story by Dave N. Campbell:

Something else happened during Sean’s first lead climb and I did not understand the significance until some time later. Two climbers from California’s Central Valley were passing underneath him while he was lead climbing and they did not initially realize that he’s paraplegic, even after exchanging words with our crew. Consciously or not, they first saw him as a human, then as a climber, then may have even made note of the clothing he was wearing, and after that saw that he was not using his legs. All too often we first see someone’s disabilities and then try our best to relate to them on the common grounds that we do share. During the first ever paraplegic lead climb it seems Sean was successful in more ways than just delivering a rope up a section of a rock wall.

Read the rest of the story here.

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