Paraplegic climber reunites with El Capitan 30 years after summiting

YOSEMITE, Calif. (KFSN) -- It was daring, daunting and it was exactly three decades ago.

"1989, July 26."

Mark Wellman knows that date well because he lived this experience.

One that made him the first paraplegic to ever climb El Capitan.

It is a mountain twice as high as the tip of the Empire State Building, and 100 times as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

"The night before we were going to blast off I remember I was so nervous that I couldn't sleep," said Wellman.

The then 29-year-old Wellman spent six months preparing for this journey with the help of his friend and lead climbing partner Mike Corbit.

They developed specialized equipment for Wellman who was paralyzed after a tragic climbing accident in 1982.

"It was down by a mountain called Seven Gables which is near Mt. Humphries," said Wellman.

But this time he was at Yosemite National Park and he knew his physical disability was not going to get in the way.

"As soon as I touched that rock the big stone all my training came into play," said Wellman. "I would send a rope through a friction device and belay him as he makes his way meticulously up to the crack and he fixes the rope and I use that ascender with a pull-up bar and I'm doing pull-up after pull-up," said Wellman.

This mountaineer says he did roughly 7,000 of those seven-inch pull-ups until he summited El Capitan eight days later.

Corbit who proudly carried his friend on his back at times says he will never forget what they accomplished together.

"It was like winning the World Series I know what those guys feel like when they get the final out it was like that it was over we were the champions," said Corbit.

And they celebrated like champions too.

Now 30 years later, they are still celebrating and encouraging people never to give up no matter their circumstance.

"My message to a newly injured person is try the things that you want to try. There's a lot of adaptive sports out there now when," said Wellman. "Always try to do the best you can with what you have and you'll accomplish a lot of if you think that way."
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