Take a seat and breathe, brah. Photo by Mikey Shaefer
Craig DeMartino and team make the first all (dis)abled ascent of El Cap.
Craig DeMartino, 46, from Loveland, first climbed Yosemite’s El Capitan before he lost his right leg in a 100-foot ground fall in Estes Park in July 2002. He returned to Yosemite in 2005, and became the first amputee to climb it (via the Nose) in under 24 hours. In June 2012, DeMartino, along with two other climbers, Pete Davis and Jarem Frye, completed the first all-disabled team ascent of El Cap via Zodiac (VI 5.7 A2). EO caught up with DeMartino just before he left for Paris to compete in his first-ever World Championships for paraclimbing, where he won bronze.
On his disability
A disability is an opportunity to see what you are able to do now. My injuries give me an advantage because I’m able to look at life through a different lens. Because I’ve lost so much, that lens allows me to appreciate everything I have more. I have this great prosthetic climbing leg, and there are advantages to it. When I meet someone who came back from Iraq with an injury, the thing they’re craving is perspective. Climbing El Cap is a good perspective builder.
Thoughts on climbing
Climbing is very therapeutic. If I don’t move, I get stiff and sore. Plus, it’s like a dance routine.
About the team
We are just three buddies climbing El Cap. Each of the three members of the team is missing a limb: Pete Davis was born without his right forearm. Jarem Frye had cancer of his leg and it was removed above the knee.
On Climbing Zodiac
For five days, you become part of it, and you just do it one pitch at a time—as soon as you solve that one problem you move to the next. I deal with my leg and stump everyday and knew I had to be careful. To sleep, I had to pick apart the lock that connects my foot to my ankle, which broke during the climb. I would never down play that this was a huge undertaking, but I decided I would succeed before I got to the base. We were there to get it done. It’s not a disability factor; it’s having a great time with your friends.
—Chris Van Leuven