Warren Macdonald, still climbing.
In April 1997 Warren Macdonald was in the midst of a long sojourn in the Whitsundays. Macdonald, an experienced bushwalker and avid climber set out to climb Mt. Bowen on Hinchinbrook Island. He teamed with another climber Geert Van Keulen, a man he didn’t know, had only just met.
They set out on April 9 (1997). Mt. Bowen is 1,121 mtrs, and though short, it is a tough climb with rain, mud, streams, loose stones and boulders, and the humidity. They climbed for some time, eight and a half hours, and made camp, but they hadn’t reached the summit.
In the dark, Warren went out to “take a leak” and then things took a turn. He went out to a ledge across a stream and tried to accommodate the rock, as he positioned himself there was a rock slide and he became pinned, a large wedge of granite had fallen across his leg, the crack he had heard was the breaking of his pelvis. He screamed for Geert, and so the long proces of getting help began. Geert could not budge the rock. and so, the next morning he set off to get help. It took him eleven hours to get down. When Geert arrived at the lagoon he was exhausted, and there was no one to contact, so he made camp and decided to set out the next morning.
Warren Macdonald was rescued, and then went through a very lengthy rehab, losing both his legs above the knee.
What is inspiring is his tenacity, courage, and strength in adversity. He never gave up, sure, he doubted, and lost his cool at times, but he stuck with getting on with life. He worked hard with specilaists in prosthetics and as a result was able to have specially designed prosthetics that enabled him to climb again. He would be the first to say he didn’t do it on his own, doctors and specialists yes, but also family and friends, love and support also helped get him through.
Macdonald has climbed Cradle Mountain in Tasmania using a modified wheelchair, later he climbed Federation Peak (also in Tasmania), Mt. Kilimajaro in Tanzania (being the first double above the knee amputee to to achieve the summit), El Capitan in Nevada, and the Weeping Wall in Alberta. He has also become a motivational speaker.
In one of his talks he says “It’s not about climbing mountains” and in one sense he means that his life is not just about conquering mountains, and in another sense he means that mountains represent many things.
We all have mountains to climb, sometimes we have the emotional or physical equivalent of be being pinned by a granite rock miles from help. And here we are, we’re still here to talk about it, we have survived! We will continue climbing life’s tracks. There will be other trials, and there will be trials for those around us, we can be our own coach and we will undoubtedly be called upon to coach others. Together we can make it. That old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is true enough in my experience, but I also think it takes a village to survive. We need each other. Warren Macdonald had Geert, hopefully we have our Geert or Geerts when we are pinned down, but also our own inner strength to call on too. And hopefully we are Geert for others.
Living the daily pinned by granite mountain I arise by love ©Paul Cannon