There is No Chair

by Scott Yorko

 Paraplegic Jeremy McGhee prepares to climb and ski a major backcountry route in California

McGhee was tired of his friends doing things without him.

On Sunday, paraplegic Jeremy McGhee will wake up at the base of Bloody Couloir, near Mammoth Mountain, and make his way to the top of the 11,800-foot peak without the use of his legs. Then he'll ski down in a sit-ski chair. He feels totally prepared and completely terrified.

You do a lot of awesome things without the use of your legs like surfing, triathlons and skiing. How are you approaching a super challenge like this?
My friends climb and ski this thing every spring and summer. I wanted to do it too. It just so happens that this is a very inaccessible peak. You can't land a helicopter on it or get up there with a snowmobile. The only way to get there is to hike it. What that means for me is jumarring up the throat. The ridge line is just gnarly shale fields and there's no way I could get through all that, so I'm just going to have to climb right up the shoot.

What's your rig like?
We've fashioned a pull-up bar handle to an ascender with teeth on a rope. I'll be lying face down with my chest on a little plastic sled and basically just doing pull-ups all the way up the couloir. It will probably take me about 2,000 pull-ups to get to the top.

How long should this take?
I think it will be about six hours or so until I'm skiing. The couloir is in the shade most of the day, which is why it can hold snow all year. I want to get up by noon or 1 p.m. to catch that nice spring corn snow, so we'll start at about 6 a.m. right before sunrise. That said, I don't want to rush up there. I'm going to enjoy my time and take note of what I'm going through. It's gonna be special.