084: Stephen Wampler – Making Disabilities Disappear

Stephen Wampler

Stephen Wampler, Mark Pattison, Finding Your Summit

Stephen is a mountain climber. In 2010 he ascended El Capitan. That feat by itself is a challenge, but something done by thousands of people. However, Stephen has Cerebral Palsy making his ascent not just exceptional, but a singular accomplishment.

From a young age, Stephen’s neurological disorder earned him no special treatment at home. His parents treated him just like his four siblings. His life changed at nine years old when he attended a wilderness survival camp. He began to see that his disability primarily existed in his mind; it truly was his only limiting factor.

Do Something Big

Working to give children with disabilities the same opportunity to conquer their mind’s limits, Stephen started a foundation that started sending kids to the same camp where Stephen discovered his potential.

Wanting to do something bigger, Stephen saw inspiration while looking up, in Yosemite, at El Cap. Thinking, it doesn’t look that hard, his mind opened to the possibility of climbing the mountain. This led to a series of conversations with friends about the path to the top.

Mark Wampler Climbing El Capitan Talking about his moment of inspiration

3000 Pull-Ups a Day

One of the main issues was creating a system that enabled Stephen to climb. Starting with fellow limitless climber Mark Wellman Stephen’s team desgined sort of a high-speed lawn chair. Despite his disability, Stephen figured he could pull himself up a few inches at a time on a rope system similar to Mark’s. For months, Stephen did thousands of pull-ups each day to get in shape for the climb.

The Climb

For 6 days, Stephen and his crew climbed. He did 20,000 pull-ups. Each one netting him 2 to 6 inches up the rock. The climb was grueling, all of the normal challenges exist; plus the others that come from being the first person with Cerebral Palsy to attempt the climb. But! this week was also the most time Stephen had EVER spent out of his wheelchair.

After nearly a week; dehydrated, hypothermic, scraped, exhausted but undaunted; Stephen got to the top.

The climb accomplished what Stephen wanted. People all over the world continue to reach out to Stephen for guidance, inspriation and to get past the limitations in their mind. His organization gives kids with disabilities the same opportuntiy he had; to realize their potential. Watch Stephen’s incredible, awad-winning, documentary about the climb here.

Camp Wamp of the Wampler Foundation is Stephen’s High Sierra based camp that helps kids make their disabilities disappear.

Camp Wamp encourages teamwork, and kids with physical disabilities where get to  to experience the great outdoors that create memories that last a lifetime. 

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