Now we are in a European Disability Sport Magazine. The Author has given me a rough translation in English. I’ve found many good articles in this magazine, and found that Google translation to be good enough to get the main points. It was great getting more press around the world. There are so many good rehab and sports programs and publications in Europe, it would be great to take the rig there one day..

Janke Bondam of

The Cliff Hanger

It is only the imagination that puts a boundary for what the sport of extremes can consists of, where it can take place, how it unfolds and who does it. And what only the very few could ever in their wildest imagination think doable, the extraordinary climber, Canadian Brad Zdanivsky, made possible in the summer of 2005.

The achievement was the climbing of The Grand Wall which was literal speaking a vertical 700 m high mountainside called The Chief near Squamish in West Canada, and the fact was, that Brad Zdanivsky is a quad after a car crash. How this climbing actually was done, you could that summer read in The Globe & Mail.

Brad Zdanivsky, who is 32 by now, was 18 when he broke his neck. Before that he was a keen climber, and from the age of 15 he had reached the first stages of what you could call advanced climbing. He had it in his genes, climbing was for him like renewing the oxygen in his blood. So what do you do when you break your neck and still want to be a climber? You put you thinking cap on and start to solve the problems.

Brad and his father, who was a keen climber himself, designed after years and years of thorough researches and checks – and a lot of money – a climbing “thing”, which they got a professional company to construct so both security and comfort was in order. It consists of a frame with a seat. Above are two bicycle-like wheels and underneath on the inside is a smaller wheel to prevent him from banging into the mountain side. He is fixed to the climbing “thing” – as he called it – and with his tied hands he can pull himself up with some pulley-device. About 30 cm for every pull.

When Brad climbed The Grand Wall in 2005 a team of volunteering climbers and friend was with him making it possible for him to climb the vertical mountain side. He started early in the morning, and fourteen hours later he had reached the top. An extremely exhausting achievement. A helicopter brought him down again. Even for an experienced climber The Chief is said to be an ordeal of the rather heavy ones. The feeling of victory after having achieved the goal not only made his climber-heart beat but it let project Vertical Challenge come into being, whose goal is to “start a movement that will see more quadriplegics enjoy adventure sports—a realm where people with higher-level spinal cord injuries are currently denied access” which can be read at their web site

RYK! Magazine has been in mail contact with Brad Zdanivsky to hear more about his climbing.

– I have been climbing since childhood. I always spotted out the highest trees and the steepest cliffs, and from the early teens I saved money for rope and other climbing gears. I started to meet other climbers and by and by the challenges in climbing became more and more difficult. All this amounted to countless adventures in the mountains which naturally game me a deep sense of connection to nature and being out in the wilderness, which has never left me. This is one of the reasons why it is a bit of a challenge to land in a wheelchair, because the outdoor life in the wilderness became practical a close country for me.

I read on a climbing-chat-site that someone had written this quote from Camus “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invisible summer”, is that something you can relate to?

– Yes, definitely: my climbing is my invisible summer. When I in ’94 crashed with the car I remember that my first thought, that night I was lying helpless across the steering wheel, was, that I will never be able to climb again. The first months in the hospital and later at the rehabilitation centre passed with starring up at the ceiling. The mountains that now needed to be climbed was all about learning to sit upright, get dressed myself, eat by my own doing and a lot of other daily things. The hardest thing for me was to forget who I once was and start trying to concentrate all my energy to return to college, but not even the best academic readings could compensate for my need to be outdoor. So it did not take long before I started to speculate if it was possible for me to return to the walls. I first started with some rappelling which developed more and more like the climbing gears got more and more refined and tailor-made for me, so I was able to use every bit of muscle power I had left. The culmination of all these efforts was reaching the summit of The Chief. Finding my way back to the wall became my invisible summer.

Why do you climb – what do you get out of it?

– Every climber hates that question … we climb because it is fun, is our immediate answer. Being on a challenging adventure in the raw wilderness with friends is really rewarding. Training and organizing to reach a certain goal is what ignites me. I climbed before my accident, so it is only natural that I continue. It is not the same as before concerning grace and power but I am up there on the wall with my friends and that is a fantastic experience. It is the mix of the great efforts, the concentration and the danger that keeps you focused on the here and now, which gives the whole thing an unsurpassed kick.

I can deduct from what I have read about you, that you have it in your blood, – that there is a thrill unmatched by hanging suspended in mid air, – that you simply must be out there, or rather up there. Is it the genes, which are calling?

– Yes, it is worse than this. I feel obligated to do this, that I really have no other choice. That the challenge is so obvious that to not pursuer climbing, would be mean I was beaten. That I’d loose some of my own self-respect. And in many ways you get close to life – being alive – up there on the walls. It is all about hard work, about focusing; focusing on the wall, the next little step and nothing more. It is a slow and calmly activity which has something spiritual about it. The adrenalin is present, needless to say, but you have to have the danger under control. It is extreme presence you sort of get addicted to. And then I have not mentioned the view and the wide open spaces. So maybe one could say that I have something to prove to myself, but really … I want to make this equipment so others can go out and surpass the work we have put into this. But doing this all safely is no small effort.

Have others followed your footsteps; other quads climbing walls?

– Some of my friends in wheelchairs have tried a bit of climbing, but I want to create a program for others to use regularly, as well as make the equipment for others. It is a very low volume sport for those in chairs, simply because mountains rarely have wheelchair access. Worse, the costs are extremely high to design and throw away new gear all the time.

Do you have future climbing plans?

– Yes, the biggest wall I’ve always dreamed about: El Captain in Yosemite National Park in California. It is a life long goal and I will be making attempts soon. We need to control breathing and blood pressure for a quadriplegic in this wild environment. This climb makes the Chief look like cake and ice cream, and literally keeps me awake at night.

RYK! Magazine wishes Brad Zdanivsky all the best of luck with his wild and daring project. We will keep an eye on him and hope he will succeed.