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Handcycle — Most paraplegics don't go off road. It's just too difficult. In the late 90's Mike Augspurger changed all that when he developed a three-wheeled, two in the front one in the back, rear-wheeled drive vehicle. It allowed the rider to steer with his chest while pedaling and with his hands on the downhill. Not only could it get to the woods, it could climb most anything. We borrowed heavily from Mike's technology and also from the platform of his four-wheeled prototype version that allowed each wheel to articulate independently. With a few tweaks, our vehicle looked like a Mars Rover married to arm pedal power. We built two versions. The first we called Bomba because our African drivers said it meant "cooler than cool," in Swahili. Like Mike's original, it was cooler than cool. For the actual climb, we used four-inch wide tires with a profile that turned a twenty-six inch rim into a twenty-nine inch tire. It looked like a monster truck, so we called it Kubwa, for huge in Swahili.

Scott Gilman built the vehicle. Dave Penney did much of the design
The Easton Foundation donated the money for R&D, and fabrication

  • Chromoly frame weighed about 50 lbs
  • 27 gears, traditional bike gearing, three in the front, 9 in the back
  • Surly Large Marge wheels and tires

The Mountain—Kilimanjaro owes much of its unique nature to its proximity to the equator. The tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world rests in Tanzania, on Africa's south east coast, just below Kenya. Even with a location that close to the equator, it has snow on its 19,340-foot peak. In fact you climb through five climate zones during the approximately 30-mile trek to the summit, starting in a rainforest and finishing on the glacier.

  • 4 days of climbing for most hikers. We took 6.5 days
  • 3300 feet (1000 meters) of vertical in 9.3 miles (15k) first three days
  • 3910 feet in 3.1 miles (5k) on the upper mountain
  • Huts for the first three days. Tents on the upper mountain.
  • Almost 13,000 feet of ascent from 6,500 to 19,340
Team—Eight members.
  • Dave Penney—Guide, trainer, vehicle developer and designer
  • Bob More—President of the One Revolution Foundation board, college fraternity brother
  • Nate Bryan—Doctor, fellow member of the Middlebury College and US Ski Teams
  • Amanda Stoddard—Documentary film director
  • Patrick Reddish—Director of Photography
  • Mike Stoner—Cinematographer
  • Ryan Gass—Media Manager
  • Chris Waddell—Handcyclist

We also had sixty-one African porters and guides to help guide, carry gear, cook meals, lay boards to bridge gaps, and provide general good cheer.

The Climb—Starting on September 24th 2009, Chris and his started up the Marangu Trail. The rig was brand new, owed to a broken frame a month earlier, and while better definitely felt different. The gearing seemed too difficult from the start, though much faster. I wondered if we should get the old rig, since repaired from the hotel. By the top of the Porter's road there was no question this was the rig. Yet, the sailing winch, designed for the steep, loose upper mountain, didn't work at all. It heated up, the resistance increasing to the point that it was totally ineffective. For difficult or loose terrain, the porters placed 2x8, eight-foot long boards, which I rode over. They worked great.

We saw the summit for the first time upon leaving the rainforest at about 10,000 feet. She seemed to sport just a skullcap of glacier, but the summit lay days off. We were still in the midst of dust that exploded when someone stepped and waterbars, designed to preserve the trail in rainy season, seemingly every ten feet. While most stepped over the waterbars, I dropped into each and climbed back out. Though the deepest was only three feet, my momentum ground to a crawl. We made it to camp in six and a half hours the first night. The second took ten and a half. The heat drained out of the sky with the light, leaving me cold and shivering and wondering about our prospects for the summit.

The trip to Kibo Hut at 15,500 feet was an easier day as a result of a road for the second half of the day, but nerves ran higher as we made our way into the thin air and to the foot of the cone. Now the real climb would start. The first three days were just a warm-up. The cone rose high above, three times as steep as the lower mountain. Most hikers leave in the middle of the night to summit for sunrise atop the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. We waited for the relative warmth of morning.

The winch didn't work again. I had a moment where I stared defeat in the face. After two years of work, vehicle development, tons of sacrifice, fundraising, poverty, I thought that my goal of having people notice me and people like me had evaporated in the thin air. My goal was to change the lives of the 600 million people in the world with physical disabilities. That day I felt like I rode on their power. It was one of the greatest days of my athletic career. That gear that I didn't think I could turn over while still on the pavement at the bottom moved seemingly by itself.

I didn't make the top that day, but instead camped with Bob and Nate at 17,500. Worried about the next two thousand feet of steep scree, we watched the mountains shadow fall on the plains 11,000 feet below. Dave fixed the winch for the next day. It worked but didn't make the going any easier. I tried in vain to find a rhythm, but my only rhythm was struggle, culminated by an impassible boulder field on the crater rim just below Gilman's Point.

Now I didn't just stare defeat in the face, I swallowed it whole. My team and the porters had carried me for 100 of the 13,000 feet, but that meant that I wasn't unassisted. I grappled with defeat as I rode through the desolate crater. It seemed like the bottom of a dried lake and I felt decidedly under water. Finally, I took Dave aside to tell him how disappointed I was. He let me lie to people—let me tell them that I could do it myself. He knew that I couldn't. He told me that no one climbs a mountain alone. That's what I wanted to eliminate—that feeling of being alone. If I didn't need anyone I was separate. I was alone.

The next day I climbed the top knowing that I'd experienced an epiphany, but still worried how the public would perceive it. My answer lay in the man next to me at the summit. Tajiri had been a porter on the mountain before a rockslide took his leg. We bought him a light prosthesis that fit well. When he returned to the mountain he said to the other porters, "You never thought you'd see me here again. Well I'm back." He'd recovered from a shell of a man to become complete. I worried about how the world might perceive my feat, but we'd already changed one person's life.

It took six and a half days to make it to the summit, four days above 15,500 feet, and a day and a half to return to the gate. We approximated that it took 528,000 revolutions of my cranks, though that's just a mathematical guess. One Revolution stands for something small that can lead to something big. In this sense I hope that it leads to a revolution of one—a revolution for all.

For questions about the climb please contact:

One Revolution is Waddell's motto for this expedition, and his life. "One revolution means so many things to me. One revolution of the handcycle, one revolution of the earth, one lifetime, one moment, one chance to make a difference."

One Revolution is also the name of the documentary which captures Waddell's journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro. "The documentary is an important part of my climb, as my story is a visual one. People need to see to understand," explains Waddell.

One Revolution
One Handcycle Revolution
One Earth's Turn
One Lifetime
One Opportunity
One Moment
One Chance
One Change