From rockandice.com, By Kirk Meier:
Two men with two legs between them are planning the first ever disabled-team ascent of El Capitan, on June 9th 2011.
Craig DeMartino, a member of the amputee duo, says, “Between us we almost make a whole person!”
DeMartino and his partner in the ascent, Jarem Frye, are leg amputees who will attempt Lurking Fear (VI 5.9 A2+) in three days. The two plan on climbing six to seven pitches a day, a respectable pace, but the goal is to enjoy the climb and ensure its success.
In 2002 DeMartino, due to belayer/climber miscommunication, suffered a 100-foot fall, resulting in a fused back, broken neck, and the loss of his right leg below the knee. Many would end their climbing careers, but DeMartino was determined to regain the strength he had before the fall.
“At first it was hard to get back to life, much less climbing,” he says, “but after I settled into the new body, I found that in my head I still wanted to do all the things I had done before.”
The idea for the first all-disabled-ascent of El Cap came about while DeMartino was free climbing in Yosemite Valley after his accident. He missed spending time on El Cap and wondered why there had never been an ascent made by a team of amputees. After encouragement from friends, he decided to go for it. Now all he needed was a partner.
Jarem Frye received an email from DeMartino with an invitation to join the climb. “It was pretty ‘test the waters’ at first,” says Frye, “but I was excited and enthusiastic, while still being a bit reserved perhaps.” Jarem Frye lost his left leg above the knee to bone cancer at age 14. He continued to climb, but realized the new limitations. In 2000 Frye developed an energy-storing prosthetic knee that enabled him to telemark ski, and he now markets it through his company, Symbiotechs USA. He realized that his new knee, the XT9, would work for climbing too, and immediately saw an improvement in his climbing ability, gaining three to four grades. Currently, he is helping to develop a new prosthetic foot specifically for climbing. Frye will be using this new prosthetic on the El Cap attempt.
“I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the first all-amputee ascent of El Capitan for the pure joy of the experience,” Frye says, “but also because it will establish a tradition” of introducing his company’s prosthetics in the proving stages.
Frye himself has no big-wall experience.
“Even though he has never done a wall like this, he is totally willing to put in the hours and days into making this happen,” says DeMartino, who feels that Frye’s big-wall inexperience adds to the inspiration behind this attempt. Frye says, “I hope that our historic climb will inspire other amputees to new possibilities.”