Hunter man Scott Doolan becomes first paraplegic to reach base camp with minimal assistance!

Source: The Herald
Written by: Anita Beaumont

SCOTT Doolan knew his expedition to Mount Everest base camp would be a huge challenge, even without the added illness, equipment glitches and a tailbone fracture.
But despite the setbacks, the 29-year-old Maryland man has become the first paraplegic to wheel 18,192 feet with minimal assistance to the base camp of the world’s highest mountain.

“It’s going to be pretty hard to top this," Mr Doolan laughed. “It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. But it was incredible.”

Mr Doolan spent the best part of a year training throughout the Hunter, Port Stephens and Central Coast in preparation for the 10-day journey on his hands and purpose-built wheels. 
On March 25, he made it to base camp in Nepal, more than five kilometres above sea level.

“I was flooded with emotions,” he said. “When I was about 20 metres out, the crowd all started clapping. It sort of all sunk in then. It was pretty exciting. I just wanted to get there and rest, because I was so sore and sick. But mainly, I was feeling excitement.”

Throughout the expedition, Mr Doolan – who became a paraplegic after a motorcycle accident at 17 – either wheeled or “wheelbarrowed” his way up to base camp.

“I went through six pairs of heavy duty mechanic gloves from Bunnings,” he laughed.

“But there were some sections that were just too dangerous, and that’s when I’d jump on the back of a Sherpa or one of the boys, and they’d pretty much piggy back me until it was clear and I could get back in the chair and do it again.”

Already struggling with flu-like symptoms, Mr Doolan said he was struck by altitude sickness once they reached about 4000 metres.

“Your elbows and shoulder joints get pretty sore, but I found the altitude harder,” he said. “The air is so much thinner. It’s like someone has a hand over your mouth, or is sitting on your chest. Even when I was sleeping, I’d roll over to get more comfortable and I’d be gasping for breath.”

Then, the sharp dip in temperature caused one of the wheels of his chair to snap off.

“Being on three wheels, you have to have pretty good balance, but we tied a bit of rope to the left axle and one of the Sherpas would hold that side of the wheelchair up,” he said. 

 “It really was a team effort.”

Mr Doolan was “flooded with emotion” when he put his hand down and sat on the rocks at base camp.

“Your mind is your only limitation. If you really want to achieve something, you can, you just have to take that first step out of your comfort zone,” he said.

Watch his journey here:


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