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Double leg amputee scales Mount Kilimanjaro

By AFP
By AFP

6/24/2012 1:20:01 AM -

MONTREAL (AFP) - A double leg amputee has pulled himself up Africa's highest mountain, disproving doctors who said he would never be a functioning member of society."

Spencer West, 31, lost his legs as a child after a genetic disorder -- sacral agenesis -- paralyzed the lower half of his body.

But he didn't let that stop him: the resident of the Canadian city of Toronto arrived at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, some 6,000 meters (19,700 feet) above sea level, on Tuesday, calling it an incredible personal feat.

"Reaching the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro was the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have ever done, but in doing so, it reinforced the powerful message of believing in yourself, and believing in others," West told AFP from Nairobi, Kenya.

"Physically, it was challenging because I climbed the majority of the mountain on my hands, which put a lot of stress on my shoulders and arms," he said, estimating he hoisted himself up 80 percent of the way.

West was accompanied on the trek by his two best friends, David Johnson and Alex Meers. Their goal was to raise money for Free the Children, an organization that supplies drinking water to hundreds of people in Kenya, which in 2011 experienced its worst drought in 60 years.

Philanthropy aside, West also had the personal goal of disproving doctors who, as of the age of five, told his parents he would "never be a functioning member of society."

On a blog named "Redefine Possible," the hikers posted photos and videos of their endeavor, during which they trekked for an average of four hours per day.

Some of the entries reveal that West's journey across sand and snow contained moments of tribulation and doubt.

On the sixth day, he wrote: "I thought yesterday was hard and cold. It was. But it was nothing compared to today. This was by far the hardest day yet."

Still, he remained unabashed in his quest to reach the summit.

The next day, on June 19, West announced triumphantly, "This was it. The day that possible would be redefined. It was an almighty struggle, but ... WE MADE IT!"

But the quintessential climber isn't done.

"Thanks to everyone's support, we've raised more than $500,000 (US$487,852) for Free The Children's clean water projects in Kenya, but our goal is $750,000 (US$731,778) -- so I'm really hoping to continue my Redefine Possible journey to reach my goal," he said.