‚ÄúDoctors told us when he was a baby that he would never do much with his life,‚ÄĚ said his mother, Tonette, from Wyoming, where West grew up. ‚ÄúThey said he should stick to activities like reading and writing.‚ÄĚ
But the double amputee, now 31 and a successful motivational speaker and activist based out of Toronto, Canada, decided not to give up and prove that doctors were wrong and summited Mount Kilimanjaro – on his hands.
‚ÄúIt was bittersweet and incredible to finally make it after all the hardships we went through to get there,‚ÄĚ West revealed. ‚ÄúI would say it was humbling, beautifully overwhelming.‚ÄĚ
The journey took seven days, taking the Toronto-based West and his best friends, David Johnson and Alex Meers, through various microclimates that included jungles, snowfields and a desolate stretch known as the lunar desert.
West said he was on his hands for about 80 per cent of the trek, leaving them beat up, despite a pair of gloves, reports The Star.
‚ÄúBy the time I got to the top my hands were numb, my elbows were sore, my shoulders were sore – but there’s something to be said about determination and trying to reach your goal,” West said.
Statistics show that every year up to 35,000 people try to climb Kilimanjaro, but only half manages to do it. The list of dangers includes altitude sickness, a slight case of which befell West‚Äôs two friends who suffered terrible headaches, nausea and fatigue.
West was fine, albeit drained. But with medicine and rest, the duo recovered to push on the next day.
‚ÄúWe were nervous we wouldn‚Äôt make it to the top, especially after my friends got sick,‚ÄĚ said West. ‚ÄúBut that‚Äôs why the three of us came, to help each other. We leaned on each, literally, to get to the top.‚ÄĚ
The traveller trained with a personal trainer for a year, climbing hills around Toronto and working on strength and core conditioning at the YMCA.
West explained his motive to climb the highest point of Africa. One the one hand, he intended to inspire others to achieve the impossible, a campaign called Redefine Possible.
“To use myself as an example ‚Äď that if I enter life without legs and climb the largest mountain in Africa and overcome that challenge, what more can you do in your daily lives to define what’s possible for you?” he asked.
“We all have the ability to redefine what is possible — whether you’re missing your legs or not. Everyone has challenges and challenges can be overcome.”
The second reason why West intended to reach Kilimanjaro is that he tries to raise $750,000 ‚ÄĒ he‚Äôs raised $500,000 already ‚ÄĒ to build a clean water program for nearly 20,000 Kenyans with Free the Children.
Expressing his gratitude for the many people who have supported his challenge, West wrote in his blog about the young girl who once inspired him:
‚ÄúI keep thinking about the little girl I met while volunteering in a Kenyan village a few years ago. She had changed the course of my entire life with just a few simple, honest words. Looking at where my legs would have been she said, “I didn’t know things like this happened to white people.”