Kyle Maynard talks about his journey to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Kyle Maynard, a congenital quadruple amputee and Collins Hill High School grad -- and his team recently reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
BUFORD -- Kyle Maynard did it, and did it the hard way.
After 10 grueling days on Africa's tallest mountain, Maynard -- a congenital quadruple amputee and Collins Hill High School grad -- and his team reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro two Sundays ago. As if 19,340 feet of elevation wasn't challenge enough, they decided mid-journey to take the Western Breach.
A steep ascent fraught with the threat of rock slides, the Western Breach claimed the lives of three American climbers in 2006. It was shut down by the Tanzanian government for about a year afterward.
"It's almost 3,000 vertical feet," Maynard said Friday, having been back in the States for less than 24 hours. "Its massive boulders that are just held together by ice. And snowfields. There was no comparison (with the rest of the climb)."
Added Dan Adams, Mission Kilimanjaro's co-leader: "It's like something out of 'Lord of the Rings.'"
Maynard -- definitely the first quadruple amputee to summit Kilimanjaro without prothestics, and, by his own joking account, probably the first man period that's been "dumb enough" to crawl to the peak -- and crew reached the top at 7:15 a.m. on Jan. 15.
Nearing the peak, the group of friends, climbing pros and military veterans decided to take the Western Breach in order to save three or four days of hiking and about 15 more miles of wear and tear. The decision led to an exhausting 12-hour day.
"It was probably the toughest day that I've ever experienced in my life," Adams said. "And that comes from a fully able-bodied person."
Filmmaker Takashi Doscher, also a Collins Hill grad, made the trek with camera in tow.
"Whenever I'd get too nervous about it," he said, "I'd just tell myself, 'This is good for the movie.'"
Donning carbon fiber "sockets" around his limbs, Maynard said the overall climb was more like the other climbers' than expected. Previous concerns about blistering and skin integrity on his "nubs" were for naught, even during a torrential downpour in the Kilimanjaro rainforests during the first day of ascent.
Like he expected, his shorter limbs actually helped him acclimate to the elevation.
"This was something where I would look up the mountain, I'd look up at the summit and it didn't seem like it was getting any closer," Maynard said. "That was really just a huge mental challenge. I had to kind of remind myself that it was literally going to happen one step at a time."
That, he said, was part of the bigger mission of the journey.
"Don't be so caught up on that horizon," he said. "Just keep moving."