6/14/12 - Craig DeMartino, Pete Davis, and Jarem Frye made the first all-disabled ascent of Yosemite Valley's El Capitan on June 9. They topped out on Zodiac (5.9 C3+) in the late afternoon after spending five days and four nights on the 16-pitch route.
Located on the southeast side of El Cap, Zodiac is the hardest aid climb to date for both Davis and DeMartino, who led the pitches with Frye between them jugging the haul line.
“It’s a total ass-kicking, even if you have four limbs,” DeMartino says. “You have to go slow and take your time.”
DeMartino had part of his right leg amputated after surviving a 100-foot fall from Whiteman (5.11c) at Sundance Buttress, Estes Park, Colorado, in 2002. Since then, he has climbed El Cap three times. He was the first amputee to make a one-day ascent of El Cap on Lurking Fear (5.7 C2) with Hans Florine in 2006, and then last year became the first amputee to climb the Nose in a day, also with Florine.
It has been a serious goal of his for three years to ascend El Cap with exclusively disabled climbers. He and Frye attempted it last June, but had to stop when Frye broke his prosthetic leg. DeMartino describes this kind of obstacle as the most limiting challenge for amputee climbers.
“We all face the same difficulties up there,” he says, “but the amputee crowd faces more maintenance than the typical climber would.”
Frye lost his leg to cancer at a young age, and he and DeMartino both climb with prosthetic limbs specially designed for rock climbing. Davis was born with congenital amputation and chooses to climb with only one arm.
“We’re all about making the most of what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have,” DeMartino says. “And I’m so psyched about the way we did the route. We climbed totally clean, and at the end, we were still all really good friends.”
Despite being told by many after his accident that he wouldn’t be able to climb again above 5.10, DeMartino has persevered and says that he doesn’t feel held back.
“I never really felt like my shattered body was a reason to stop doing what I love,” he said. “Everyone is disabled by their excuses for why they can’t do something, and that grounds them from doing the really great things they could do. But when we’re out there trying, great things get accomplished.”
Click here to read "More Than Able," a Climbing magazine feature about DeMartino.
Dates of ascent: June 5-9, 2012
Source: Craig DeMartino