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7 summits and other mountain stuff => News => Topic started by: 7summits on Jul 10 2002, 17:18

Title: Russian Paraplegics Climb Mt. McKinley
Post by: 7summits on Jul 10 2002, 17:18
Two Russians have become the first paraplegics to climb the highest mountain in North America.

VOA News
5 Jul 2002 14:55 UTC

Russian paraplegics Grigory Zarkov, center right, and Igor Ushakov, center left  

Grigory Zarkov and Igor Ushakov climbed 6,000-meter Mt. McKinley also called Denali, in the Western U.S. state of Alaska using special lightweight chairs mounted on skis. They used ski poles and ropes to make their way up.

The Russian team spent 42 days on the mountain, reaching the summit on June 15. Both Russian men have spinal cord injuries that force them to use wheelchairs in everyday life. Climbing Mt. McKinley is a dangerous undertaking for any mountaineer. Climbers face extreme cold, strong winds, and thin air. Only half of the people who try to climb the mountain succeed. Ninety-two climbers have died on Mt. McKinley.

Mr. Ushakov said he hopes his team's achievement makes life a little bit better for the disabled in Russia.

Title: Re:Russian Paraplegics Climb Mt. McKinley
Post by: 7summits on Jul 19 2002, 16:30
Here's some more info...

Disabled Climbers on a Mission

By Burt Herman
The Associated Press  
Ivan Sekretarev / AP


Igor Ushakov describing his trip up Mount McKinley at a news conference Thursday

Pulling their weight up 45 degree grades on specially designed sleds, disabled climbers Igor Ushakov and Grigory Tsarkov became the first paraplegics to reach the summit of the highest peak in North America.
Back home, however, it's not the 6,194-meter summit of Mount McKinley that challenges Russia's disabled but the everyday slopes of stairs, street curbs or doorways. The two climbers said at a news conference Thursday that they hoped their expedition would draw attention to the problem of unenforced accessibility laws.

"When we got to the top, I felt like it wasn't just for me," Tsarkov said. "Many disabled people think they can't do anything. They just need to accomplish something small so they know what's possible, so they can live."

Ushakov and Tsarkov -- accompanied by a team of professional climbers, rescue personnel and a doctor -- reached the summit of Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, on June 15.
Tsarkov said other climbers were skeptical of their quest when they first arrived at a base camp at the mountain in May, questioning how the two could make it up the treacherous peak known for its highly variable weather. About 1,200 people each year try to ascend Mount McKinley, but only half make it to the top and 92 have died trying.

But after others saw the Russians were able to move freely around the camp, they all wanted to have their pictures taken with the paraplegic climbers and encouraged their quest, Tsarkov said.
Using special chairs mounted on skis, the climbers used ski poles to push themselves along on flat sections. For the steeper grades, they pulled themselves up using a lever device attached to a rope, with a climber behind them maintaining tension on the line.

To provide them enough rest during their 42 days on the mountain, the climbing team built more camps than usual for the ascent, including one at the dizzying altitude of 5,900 meters for a break before the final push to the top.

President Vladimir Putin sent a message of congratulations to the climbers Thursday.

"You haven't just conquered a legendary mountain height, but also reached another milestone in your lives," Putin wrote. "I am sure that new victories lie ahead of you."

The disabled have long found themselves excluded from a society where accessibility has only recently entered the public awareness. Putin admitted in December that the country should do more for its 11 million disabled citizens. "Neither public buildings nor transport in our cities meet the requirements of disabled people," he said. "It's a shame on us."
The issue came to his attention after a Kremlin meeting where disabled citizens invited to attend a public forum were unable to fit their wheelchairs through the turnstiles.

The country has both federal and local laws on accessibility, but they are often vague and lack means for enforcement, said Denise Roza, director of Perspektiva, a Moscow advocacy group that promotes disability awareness. Funding for accessibility projects also remains scarce, she said.
With its steep escalators, the Moscow metro remains effectively off-limits to anyone using a wheelchair. Ramps leading into stores or apartment buildings are rare, and the occasional 30-centimeter-high or more street curb is enough to jolt any pedestrian.

Roza said her group was even having trouble finding an accessible venue for a film festival it plans in September, adding that the one theater that was usable has only a narrow elevator leading to its second-floor screening rooms.
Still, she said the atmosphere has improved somewhat in the last few years, and some cities have even included disabled representatives on building approval boards.

"The issue is more public than it was in the past, but we still have a long way to go," Roza said.

The two paraplegic climbers are moving ahead on plans to start a ski team for disabled athletes. Tsarkov is considering an ascent on a mountain in Kyrgyzstan, and Ushakov is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in December.
Ushakov said he marveled at how easy it was to get around and go into stores while he was in Alaska ahead of the climb. In the United States, laws on accessibility are widely enforced.

"In Russia, there are also many laws, but they aren't put into effect," he said. "I hope that there will be changes, but it's just hope. It all depends on the government."