By the time you read this, Jeff Pagels may already have climbed by way of a specially adapted hand-propelled, three-wheeled mountain bike Mt. Kilimanjaro,
by Paula Patch

By the time you read this, Jeff Pagels may already have climbed
— by way of a specially adapted hand-propelled, three-wheeled
mountain bike — Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in
Africa.

The ascent will add to a long list of other “epic”
climbs Pagels has completed, including Mt. Rainier in Washington
state, Mt. Galdhopiggen in Norway and Mt. Whitney in Southern
California, but this will be his first climb not on snow.

“Heretofore people in wheelchairs have been carried up;
they really didn't go on their own. Most of this climb will be my
effort,” he says. A seven-person team, including his two sons
and his neurosurgeon, will accompany Pagels — who is
paraplegic as the result of a tree falling on him — on the
49-mile hike to Kilimanjaro's summit.

“It's not a technical mountain,” he says.
“People who don't make it [to the summit] get altitude
sickness. It's kind of a crapshoot — you don't know if you're
going to have altitude sickness until you get it.

“I have so much respect for the outdoors, [therefore] I'm
giving myself a 60 percent chance,” Pagels continues.
“[An ascent like this] has never been done before, so we're
going to give it a try. At any rate, getting down is more important
than going up. I'm just going to enjoy the journey.”

Climbing — as well as cross-country skiing, sea kayaking,
hunting, fishing and camping, plus Pagels' day job administering
recreation grants for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
— are the physical manifestations of his passion for the
outdoors.

“I've always liked the outdoors but I didn't realize the
value of the outdoors — what strong medicine the outdoors can
be — to me personally until I got injured,” he says.
“I believe wholeheartedly that there is something magical,
something cathartic about being outdoors.”

Pagels has made it his personal mission (what he calls his
“mantle of responsibility”) to get people with
disabilities “to go outside and play. I don't expect
everybody to climb a mountain in Africa, but I do it to show there
are no limitations just because you're disabled.”

Through presentations to various groups of people with
disabilities, Pagels tries to teach people with disabilities how to
play outside, including educating them about available wheelchair
technology, the proper clothes to wear and how to use their friends
for support. “Some people just don't want to go out there and
get their wheelchairs muddy. I want them to go out and
play.”

For more information about Jeff Pagels and the Rainbow
Expedition team, and to follow up on the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb, go
to
www.rainbowexpedition.com.

Don't just take our word for it. Make plans to attend Jeff
Pagels' session at Medtrade, “Getting High in Africa,”
Friday, Oct. 10, from 9:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.