Paralympian visits UNL

Posted By: Jenn Schanz 

After a serious accident, the last thing most people are thinking about is rock climbing.

But more than 30 years after getting paralyzed from the waist down, Paralympian Mark Wellman is still doing it.

“I fell 100 feet, broke my lower back at T-11, T-12,” Wellman says.

His accident happened while climbing; since then, he’s gone on to ski, bike, and climb all over the world.

He even climbed El Capitan in Yosemite; he was the first paraplegic to do it.

Now, he’s using his story to inspire others.

Thanks to UNL, Madonna, and Union Bank, he was able to stop by the University’s Outdoor Adventures Center for a special climbing demo geared toward climbers with disabilities.

From paraplegics to double amputees, several people stopped by to give it give it a go.

“I’ll be able to say that I’ve done it now. just kind of check it off the list of being an amputee and doing tough things like this,” says Andrew Rogge. He an amputee, and was a participating climber.

“When I’m here, when I’m climbing, I don’t feel like I’m disabled,” says Alex McKiernan.

McKiernan was injured in a car accident not long ago, and acted as an instructor.

“Climbing is already an adaptive sport, you need specialized equipment to safely and efficiently climb something. And we just adapt it a little differently for anybody with a disability,” McKiernan says.

Like a special chair called a 5-1 model, meaning it multiplies the strength used in your upper body by five, to lift your lower body the rest of the way up.

Wellman says it’s one of many pieces of equipment that will get people with disabilities to push their limits.

“It proves to me that it’s another thing that I can do,” says Rogge. 

If you’re interested in participating in UNL’s climbing club, call the Outdoor Adventures Center at 402-472-4777.