Brelsford claims it was simply easier to climb than walk at first. “When you’re climbing, you have three out of four instead of one out of two,” she says. “I was ice climbing in Ouray but hadn’t figured out how to walk yet.”
“When you’re paralyzed, you’re disabled, when you’re dismembered, you can still do everything,” Carroll says.
It seems like everyone has personally tailored their prosthetic in some way. “It’s all about components, like a mountain bike,” says Demartino, whose climbing leg is plastered with sticky rubber for extra purchase on the rock. He says he climbs more by sight than feel and appreciates the extra traction.
Paradox Sports’ director of operations, Chad Butrick, attaches his leg to his harness via a narrow climbing sling. The idea occurred to him after nearly losing his prosthetic on the last pitch of an alpine climb with O’Neill.
When Butrick told the story, everyone laughed and started to share their own experiences losing prostheses in public places. Everyone had a story: Carroll lost his in a busy intersection while riding his motorcycle. Demartino lost his on a ski lift. When the liftie returned it he asked, “is this yours?” Breslford’s de-suctioned in the midst of a high heelhook at the rock climbing gym.
Since 2007, Paradox Sports has grown from a two-man operation into a non-profit headed by a team of adventure-loving entrepreneurs who bear a diverse set of talents. At the helm is Malcolm Daly, founder of climbing brands Stonewear and Trango, who designed his own prosthetic climbing foot. “I’ve put together an all star team from the outdoor industry who I love and who all know about running non-profits,” says Daly.
Daly shattered his leg in a mountaineering accident on Alaska’s Thunder Mountain, with climber Jim Donini, who went for help. 48 hours later, Daly’s legs were frozen solid.
“I decided I’d rather be an amputee than a cripple,” Daly said. “People tend to conflate being an amputee and crippled. In reality, they don’t have anything to do with each other. It just means you’re missing a body part, that’s it.”
Daly has a habit of dropping in on climbers when they lose limbs. When Daly heard about a climber from Fort Collins who might lose his leg, he visited Demartino at the hospital.
Demartino remembered it clearly. “This dude comes in, takes his leg off and throws it on my bed, it was weird. He was like, ‘if it happens, it’s not a big deal.”