El Capitan Southeast Face » Zodiac » Climbing with spastic cerebral palsy!

Climbing with spastic cerebral palsy!

strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in /home/yosemiteerik/webapps/yosemite/sites/all/modules/captcha/captcha.inc on line 61.
Day 1: Driving to Yosemite on September 10th 2010, nerves are already starting to getting the best of me. As we enter the park gates we get stopped a couple miles down the windy road because of an accident. The line of cars is god knows how long. The film crew is waiting for us to arrive at 3 o’clock at Badger Pass to start the interviews. They want to start in our car as we drive to the valley floor. As we sit at a dead stop in the middle of nowhere without a time frame of how long we’ll be stuck. I’m becoming increasingly anxious and it’s not like me. So we decide to cut out of line of never ending cars. The Wowona Hotel was about ten miles back and by then we’d been in the car for 7 hours. The kids we’re also getting restless at this point and that's not helping the cause so we pull in the hotel parking lot and get out to walk around. It’s now 3 and we’re going to be late but can’t call, there’s no cell reception anywhere. It’s now almost 4 and the cars are lined up now all the way to the hotel and there still not moving. We then find out the wreck has been cleared and we get back in car. It takes us another 45 minutes to reach the film crew who is now worried about the lighting for the beginning of the entire film. We pull over and two film guys jump in and mic the family and say lets go. It’s still another 45 minutes to my climbing crew on the valley floor. If you have ever been to Yosemite through the south entrance you know the long tunnel you have to drive through before you get to the valley. At the other end of tunnel it opens up to a full panoramic view of the entire valley including El Cap front and center rising 3,000ft straight up from top to bottom. As you drive down to the valley and cross the meadow looking east, it hit me like a brick wall, I was going to be climbing the shear rock that now takes up our entire view. It leaves me speechless but feeling empowered at the same time knowing what I’m facing over the next 5 days. We finally meet up with Tommy and Dave around 5:45pm. Park near the bridge that has a perfect view of the wall to get a good look at what can humble the most experienced climbers in the world! We talk for about 30 minutes so the film crew can get the shots they want before the sunsets. Tommy's last words to me are "try to get a good nights sleep", we’ve got the first big day tomorrow to head to base camp!Day 2: I didn’t sleep at all last night because my mind was racing and I just couldn't stop thinking. My family and I meet up with Tommy and Dave to pack for the climb at 10 and double check everything before we head for base camp later in the day. My wife had gone to the store for some last minutes items and leaves the kids to play. I bring all my gear out so Tommy can tell me what I can take for the 5 days. Tommy starts riffling through all my gear and puts most of what I’ve packed to the side and said this is not going up! I’m left with the basics of one of everything and nothing more. Now for the good stuff that I was fretting about for almost a year, going to the bathroom on a little 6 by 3 foot portaledge and trying balance myself to take a dump. Going number one was not big issue, it was just going to be interesting using an external catheter that runs down a 2ft tube for the first time in my life and getting over the sensation of going without taking off my pants! A little weird but I get the hang of it within a couple of hours. I show both of them my modified beach chair that I had my friend Seth take a knife to and cut a 4inch circle out of where I would sit so I could put a bag through it during the process. Park rules are nothing gets dropped, nothing or you get fined! So the chair sat about 4 inches off the ground and it's not going to tip over on the portaledge. Both Tommy and Dave looked at it and said there is no way that chair is going with us. So now my dilemma is convincing these two accomplished climbers to take the first ever s#%t chair up the face of El Cap! I certainly wasn’t going to be able to do what they were suggesting, which was lay on my back and take a crap on a big diaper. I said I’ll the strap the chair to my climbing seat and I’ll take up with me. Tommy said are you sure I can’t just hold you up so you can go that way. I said and hold a bag to! They both sat there for a while and said ok, we’ll take it but we need to take as much off of it as we can, the less wait the better. So by the time they packed everything; water, food, close, climbing gear and sleeping stuff it all fit into two bags that were 4 feet high by 18 inches in diameter not including my climbing chair and climbing pull up bar. Each haul bag weighed over 100lbs each that was going the face with us and was now going have to get to base camp by dark. It’s now 2:30pm on September 11th and I getting ready to say good bye to my family, what an emotional roller coaster that was for everyone. I slide out my chair and into my climbing seat and knowing there was no turning back now! Giving my wife a kiss and hugging my kids for the last time was the hardest thing to do. Know your in good hand but what happens if, runs through your mind not knowing for sure if I’ll see them again. They picked me up off the ground and put me on the back of Tommy for the two hour trek up to the base of El Cap!Day 3: Today, morning came early not because we wanted to start climbing at 5am! Another climbing team woke the entire camp with the noise of all their gear. They only spoke French, which didn’t help our cause, they still apologized but it was a bit frustrating. It was now three nights in a row that I got very little sleep. They took about an hour to get ready, clanging around and talking in the pitch dark. They finally started their climb as the sun was coming up and with 20 minutes after leaving the ground they were out of view and gone. I was ready to launch at 9:34am on what I thought was going to be 5 days of pure punishment on El Cap. It took almost 30 minutes to really get going from my first pull-up to find the groove that I needed to be in mentally. I was probably 70ft off the ground and there was a group of twenty or so people watching below and they are still within earshot when the wind wasn’t howling in my ears. One of the people was a friend wrote a poem for me. He decided that was the time he was going to read the poem. As I’m climbing, I’m only hearing every other word and can’t understand it at all! I could see that he was crying as he was read it, all I could was say thank you and keep climbing. El Cap is what most elite climbers put at the top of their list for the ultimate achievement in the world. El Capitan was a climb of a life time for my foundation and the film that will be produced, hopefully push kids with physical disabilities to a whole new ambitious level like never before and I was now doing it! It hit me in waves over the next five days but like Tommy said to me a year before, I would go through every emotion in the book every five minutes. He was so dead on. It’s now 1pm and I’ve been climbing a couple hours and already the blisters are starting to form. I know this may sound weird, but I remembered a trick from the show Man versus Wild, that if you slap your hand together really hard it will get the blood back in to your skin. Only thing is, I can’t clap, so I starting hitting the rock face instead as hard as I could, it worked really well. My hands were sore, but I got the blisters to be a minor issue during the entire trip. I finished my first grueling day of climbing at about 6pm. I was battered and so sore that I couldn't believe it was only the first day. I rested on a portaledge 350 feet off the ground! As I sat looking strait up at all the stars I wondered about tomorrow, knowing I had to do another 400 feet to stay on track. Lying there hour after hour not able to sleep, all I could think about if that if I failed at this, it would not be good for the future of my foundation.Day 4: Woke up this morning feeling tried but strong, didn't sleep that well again. First night sleeping on 6x3 foot portaledge with a buddy tied into the rock face around my waist all night. I've never been able to get that comfortable sleeping on my back all night and just can't get the nerves to calm down enough to sleep more an hour straight.

Can still hear the cars going by below on the valley floor. Finishing my second day, feeling like absolute crap at this point.  Starting to question myself already knowing I have 3 more days to go. My CP is really starting to beat me up, the more drained I get,  the more I’m unable to control my body. My left arm is really pissing me off, it’s flailing around like an out of control monster. I’m now getting a clear understanding how sleep deprivation and lack of food can play trick on your mind, body and soul. 

Climbed today for a solid 8 hours, and I'm now kicking back 750 feet off the ground, sitting on the portaledge with Tommy and Dave eating the first big meal in 48 hours. Feeling the inevitable coming on and dreading how I'm going to go #2 on the big wall. Leaves you to think!  LOL


On the ground I’m a very self-sufficient guy, able to do 99% of my daily activities on my own without any help from my wife. On the wall I find myself in a very awkward position because I’m either hang on a rope or stuck on a 6x3ft nylon platform and feeling helpless to do anything.  Asking for help to go to the bathroom is a humbling experience. And all this is being caught on film! Having said that, after worrying about it for months and months, on the 3rd morning, it happened. It was hard to balance, but I did my business without a big mess...

Day 5: I woke up late and little pissed off because I’m really sore everywhere and didn't sleep well again. This is now 5 nights in a row with very little sleep. It's now almost 10am and the sun is hot and blazing down on us with no wind as we make the decision to let the ropes go to the bottom and now we are fully committed to going up. I knew this was going to be a hellish day, but I had no idea how bad it would get!

During the climb today I’m going to be climbing into what known as the big grey circle. The circle is a relatively newly exposed piece of the granite that is a lighter grey than the rest of the wall from a rock fall that was created a years ago. The chunk of rock that fell was about 300ft high by 200ft wide, and in places was 45ft thick!

The beginning of the climb today is going to get rough because I’m starting off scraping for the first 100ft until I get to the circle at which point I’ll be 30ft from the rock face. It takes me almost 4 hours to scrape along until I think I’m free. Little do I know the feeling of hanging in mid air on a thin rope goes right through me and me fear of heights comes over me. I left just paralyzed, unable to move, looking straight up at where the portaledge is now anchored. I lay there in my climbing seat for a while not knowing what to do. I was thinking this could be the end!  I ate and got some water and rested and slowing rationalized with myself that it wasn’t going to be harder than what I had just been through and I just had to climb another 300ft to get to the portaledge.

After 9 solid hours of climbing, I'm hallucinating as I reach the portaledge in the dark. My mouth is so dry I don't have any saliva left and my toung felt like a dry brick. I looked at my climbing partners, and literally don't know where I am. All I know, is I needed to sleep! They got me on the portaledge somehow and had me drink water and eat as I laid in my sleeping bag. I was in and out of conscienceness for a solid hour as I over-hear them talk about how concerned the two of them were about my overall health not knowing at the time, who they were really talking about. However,  I quickly came back and was cracking jokes and I remember them both saying to me “it’s good having you back”.

Day 6: The day from fx!%&@g hell! Again I didn't sleep well because of the full moon, it made it seem like dawn until about 4 am when it finally went down. I couldn't hide my head in my bag, it was just too hot!  So I just  laid there looking straight up at a rock that was at least 250 feet above me that jutted out about 45 feet out from the wall. It was like a roof over me and I knew as I lay there hour after hour I have go up and over this ledge that day to get to my next anchor point and then I need to climb another 55 feet by the end of the day to our next portaledge for night 4. I was dreading it to say the least.

It's now 10 am on day 4 and I'm shaking and scared to death because I know what I'm about to go through.  The radio beeps and it's base camp telling me to turn on my cell phone because ABC World News wants to interview me before I start climbing. I was so completely out of it and dazed and fatigued that I couldn't comprehend why they wanted to talk to me! I told base camp that I didn’t want to talk. Tommy and Dave both looked at me and said, "It's fx!%&@g ABC dude, you're going to be around the globe in 24 hours!!  Isn't that the reason your doing this in the first place... to expose your camp and the kids of the Wampler Foundation?!?!"

Needless to say, I did the interview. I just remember that all I could think about is not swearing on international TV.....

I got into my climbing chair to get lowered into the abyss of space. In the middle of the gray circle on the big wall, hanging 45 feet from the wall looking straight up the rope. Keep in mind I still can’t see the top, even after 4 days of climbing. All I could do is hang there and say to myself I can't give up now, all these kids with disabilities are looking at me and counting on me not to give up. And man as it turns out, that was a real understatement.

Now swaying in the wind, 30 feet side to side, 1,300 feet off the ground. My mind and body are both beginning to shut down from exhaustion, fatigue and dehydration. My left arm couldn’t be controlled at this point. I'm wondering how I'm going to do another pull up. I was in rough shape, knowing I had another 4 hours to go just to get to the portaledge for the night to rest. And man do I have to go #2!!!!!!! I stopped climbing to rest for a while. Everything is flashing through my mind;  camp, foundation and family telling me not to give up.

I finally make it up and over the 45ft ledge after 6 hours of climbing; I’m stuck at the anchor point waiting for Dave to set the ropes to the portaledge, which is now 55 feet above. An hour goes by and I’m still stuck waiting as I bake in the sun. I’m getting some much needed rest and water as I watch the sun go around the nose of El Cap.  I soon realize that this is not a good thing, I had been sweating all day and now the wind is blowing and I’m getting really cold and having a hard time controlling my body. It’s now time to go again and I’m frozen and can’t move. I’m hanging there, not knowing what to do the a little over 1,600 feet off the ground!  

I could tell from the camera guy, Diane, that from the puzzled look on his face, he was getting concerned because my left arm was smacking me in the face uncontrollably. I wasn’t able to grab the bar to pull myself up anymore. As I hung there for over a half an hour, shivering in the wind, and with the sun now going down, It’s at this point that I know I needed help for the first time. With hypothermia setting in, everyone made the decision, including me that they needed to lift me up the last 55 feet of the day to the portaledge so I could rest for the night. I was so pissed off at myself for not climbing that 55ft but there was nothing I could do…. but looking back now it was the smart and safe decision.

After the trauma of last evenings events and a few good hours of sleep and a big meal the team decides today will be a light day and I’ll only climbing 4 hours to the next anchor point. It’s only 200 feet above but I’m dying to get off this rock! At this point I need to rest for more then 12 hours to get ready for the final push tomorrow. At this point I’m really mad at myself because I had only planned to be on the wall for 5 days and I was behind a day already.



Day 7: It's been a pretty easy day, but I'm living on Tylenol for the most part, and muscle pain and banged up elbows are driving me insane. We're all hanging out on a part of the mountain called Peanut Ledge for the night, out of the wind finally.We were all excited to dine on  we have home- made burritos that one of the camera guys brought down from the top. After eating cold Chef Boyardee lasagna, ravioli’s straight out of the can and packaged tuna with bagels for the past 4 days, I think that it may have be the best meal of my life.

My film crew was made up of a bunch of elite climbers that also were world-renowned cinematographers that have filmed extreme sports on every continent. Two of the guys went up and down the face at least 10 times in the 6 days I was on the wall. Every day they would have someone or themselves switch out batteries and data cards.  Climbing for them was a snap because they could just clip on to our lead line and walk up the rope like a monkey.   

Day 9: After being beaten up for the last 6 days you would think I would be able to sleep like a baby when I made it to top. We all had a shot of tequila to celebrate and go to sleep for the night but because I was so high on adrenaline I laid there on top of El Cap all night wide awake. Everyone else in the team was snoring but I was so uncomfortable sleeping on a solid piece of granite and moon shining in my face I just couldn’t. I knew it was going to be another long day getting down the back-side today but really did know how long it would take to get to valley floor. I knew we had over 300 people waiting for us to join us for my reunion with my family…..

Day 10: Leaving our over night summit camping spot and going down to meet the crowd in the valley floor and getting this whole adventure over with finally. Eight of my Marine friends hiked up the back way to carry me down the 9 hour journey on their backs. What I didn't know is that my son came up to surprise me at the top, a tear jerker and a half for me.  I learned later that he was really scared to go up, so I was especially proud of him.

It was about 7am when we got started with the day after another night of no sleep. At this point in the game I'm beyond exhausted and starting to crash hard. Did I ever say I stunk?   Boy did I ever!  WOW! I had never smelled something so bad in my life.... I stunk so bad that flies wouldn't even come near me let alone my own wife (kidding)!  We were on our way,  headed down the back side and I was falling asleep off and on but getting bumped around I wasn't able to really rest. More to come on day ten but I've got to go to meeting..

The continuation of my 10 day journey: 

I'm being tossed around on the back of friends who were Marine from Coronado.  They  had come up from the back side of the rock, a steep trek rather than a face, in order  to pick me up at the top and bring me back down to earth..

I thought that they would meet me as I summited the afternoon before, but the top of El Cap is an expansive area and we were a mile from where they were camped.  As a result, they summited, but waited until the next morning to join us.  That morning, when we all connected, and unbeknownst to me, my 10 year-old son was hiding behind a pile of rock to surprise  me.   So we reach the rock pile and I'm thinking we're taking a group photo with the crest of the Sierra's in the background and out pops my son!

I was completely taken aback and happy, and had no idea he would be with the crew, let alone that he would be able to brave it on the hike up with these guys and sleep up there with a bunch of 40 something year olds!  They were great!  We thought it was best to leave a lot of the details of conversations that followed between us from my wife.  Had she known details, she would have agreed.  

It took me a minute to registrar that he was there but once I fully comprehended what was going on, I lost it..... All my Marine friends were crying and emotions ran high. Amazingly, there was phone reception, and one of the camera guys, who had called so my wife could hear,  was very distracted by the scene, and forgot he was on the phone.  Nevertheless, my wife and daughter got to hear the entire reunion. It took me about five minutes to compose myself, and  capture the experience in pictures. 

It was now around 10am and time to go and meet the 200 plus people waiting for us in the meadow on valley floor. It took the guys about 5 hours the day before to make the hike up and we all thought it would take a little less to get to the car.  We wrong, and eight hours later we made it to the car. The guys were beat up up from going down hill, their legs were cramping and there toes had blisters and was scratch up from going though the woods. A couple of the guys lost their toe nails a couple weeks later.

Getting to car at 5pm, one of the guys had brought up two mini kegs of Spaten, my favorite beer ...... What a moment that was after a year of training, eating right, not drinking and doing everything right to make this journey happen... That first sip was heaven on earth... But we had to go! 

We piled into the car and raced down the hill to the meadow which was a good half an hour. We didn't know what to expect when we got the meeting place where the film crew was waiting for me to reunite with my wife and family. When we got there, there was no where to park! We had a dilemma because park rules don't allow you to park off the road but we did anyway and boy did we get yelled at but one of the film crew, afraid of getting a ticket..........

I'm was going to talk about my reunion with my family after the 6 day climb but I just realized I have a meeting and have to go for the moment........ One thing I haven't shared with any of you before I go is the documentary is out there so if your so inclined to watch what I've been talking about over the last two years you can now! Just go to www.wamplerfoundation.org


You can go through the emotions with me!!!!!!!!!