Proudly wearing his "Got Stump?" t-shirt, Sean O'Neill, a Paradox Ice participant, pauses at the second pitch of Jam Crack, not far from Lower Yosemite Falls, after successfully lead climbing the section of rock, the second such paraplegic lead climb ever.
By Bill Tiedje
Seven years ago, former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Chad Jukes, a below knee amputee, discovered ice climbing at the first annual Paradox Ice in Ouray. He will be among a growing community of adaptive climbers gathering for this year's event from Feb. 28 through Mar. 2.
The annual "Got Stump?" auction and gear raffle fundraiser, including beer provided by Ouray Brewery, will be held at the Ouray Community Center on Saturday, Mar. 1 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is open to the public, followed by live music at the Ourayle House.
"At the end of my first day, I was down at Ouray Mountain Sports buying boots and crampons," recalled Jukes, a Paradox Sports ambassador.
On Dec. 17, 2006, the army truck under Jukes' command struck an anti-tank mine in northern Iraq, the force of the blast breaking his femur and shattering his heel bone.
After several surgeries to rebuild his leg, he chose amputation over the possibility of a lifetime of recurrent infections, surgeries and narcotic pain medication.
Jukes began traditional climbing in Eldorado Canyon, Colo., shortly after receiving his prosthesis and eventually took up ice climbing after his experience in Ouray, thanks to training and specialized equipment from Paradox Sports.
Paradox Ice will host participants with all types of physical disabilities, including spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder during the three day event, according to Paradox Sports Curriculum Director Pete Davis.
Expert instruction, specialized equipment and professional rigging will allow the climbers to make the most of their time at the Ouray Ice Park.
"We focus on the abilities that people do have, instead of what they don't have," said Davis, an adaptive climber himself.
Lodging and meals are also included in the $225 registration fee.
Davis said 20 participants were expected for the event with 10 more potential spots remaining.
Davis recalled local Ouray adaptive climber and host of the "Got Stump?" auction Malcolm Daly saying that all ice climbing is adaptive.
"Nobody can climb ice without attaching spikes to your hands and feet," Davis explained. "We just take it the next step."
Paradox Sports' specialized adaptive equipment, such as a pivoting ice axe specially designed by Ouray resident Mark Miller of San Juan Mountain Guides for adaptive climbers' inflexible prostheses or mechanical advantage rope systems, literally allow disabled people to climb to new heights.
"It's life changing for a lot of people," Davis remarked.
For many veterans, the focus and concentration in a dangerous environment inherent in ice climbing is similar to the risk mitigation and assessment of military service, Jukes explained.
Fellow Iraq veteran Dan Sidles who experienced some of the most intense fighting of the war near Fallujah has found climbing simply as a reason for living.
A recipient of the Purple Heart, Sidles said he developed an interest in climbing after his case manager at an Army hospital directed him to find something to do that would keep his mind off the war.
Sidles, now a mountain guide, recently completed his American Mountain Guide Association Climbing Wall Instructor Course with Paradox Sports in Golden.
For Sidles and his fellow veterans, the community of climbers that Paradox Sports brings together is empowering.
"It's climbing with other people that are like me," Sidles remarked.
During the fundraiser on Saturday evening, a t-shirt reading "Got Stump?" that has morphed into a traveling trophy after being auctioned off the back of Daly during a fundraiser for the Ouray Ice Park years ago, will be awarded to a disabled athlete who is excelling in the sport.
"It’s like the Stanley Cup," Jukes added, describing the t-shirt award. "It's a traveling trophy for somebody who is doing some rad stuff and has a disability."
The current t-shirt holder, Sean O'Neill, is the first paraplegic climber to lead climb with the help of a new type of aid climbing system that he also developed.
The auction has raised thousands of dollars for the Ouray Ice Park and Paradox Ice over the years, helping to build the Kids Wall, Fallen Climbers' Memorial and Stump Wall at the ice park.
"The community has been hugely supportive," noted Davis.
Davis also acknowledged the support of Ouray businesses and sponsors, including the Ourayle House, Kat Papenbrock, Mouse's Chocolate and Ouray Brewing Company, which will unveil the Paradox Pale Ale at the event.
For more information, Davis can be contacted at