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5 Adventurers Who Overcame Physical Limitations

Last week we said goodbye to the extraordinary Stephen W. Hawking, 76, one of the greatest physicists of our time. As the New York Times said, “he roamed the cosmos from a wheelchair.” As a graduate student he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and given a few months to live. The disease made it so he could only control one finger and his eyes, but his mind was not impacted and free to explore. He overcame a disability to become an emblem of human determination.

His story reminded us of a few other people who have overcome physical adversities to explore. They may not be explaining exploding black holes, which was the “first great landmark in the struggle to find a single theory of nature,” but they are exploring the world despite physical limitations in their own meaningful ways.

At 13, Bethany Hamilton-Dirks was attacked by a 13-foot tiger shark who bit off her arm. Two years later she won a national surf title. In 2007, she achieved her dream of becoming a professional surfer. A new film about her life, Unstoppable, will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Erik Weihenmayer may be blind, but he is among the most accomplished adventurers we know. At 13 he began to lose his vision due to a disease called retinoschisis. But he didn’t give up on his passions. In 2001, he has summited Everest and was the first blind person ever to do so. He went on to complete the Seven Summits, kayak the Grand Canyon, and continues to encourage of others to have No Barriers, which is also the name of his foundation.

Military veteran Lonnie Bedwell is also blind and was the first blind person to kayak the Grand Canyon, though he was not an experienced kayaker. When the threshold for running the Grand Canyon was placed at 1,000 kayak rolls, he took his donated kayak to the pond on his farm and rolled it 1,500 times. He later ran the Grand Canyon with Erik Weihenmayer.

When Arunima Sinha summited Everest, she became the first female amputee to stand on top of the world. She lost her leg below the knee when she was pushed out of a moving train by thieves in her home country of India. “My dream is to make these physically challenged people achieve their dream,” she says.

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Full on gym season for me now as I've pretty much been traveling more this year than I've been at home. Not that it's a terrible thing, I freaking love pulling plastic! I'll be in Maine this weekend showing Stumped at @banffmountainfestival and soon after I'll be headed to Munich for @banff_de (I've never been, what should I do there?) THEN the first weekend of March is the first ever Adaptive Climbers Festival in Horse Pens 40- all while trying to train for my big trip in August. At some point, I'll slow down and sleep- but that day is not today! ? by @cedarwright of warmer days outside #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #gimpsnotwimps #amputee #rockclimbing #gotstump #adaptiveathlete #tradisrad #wyoming #climbing_is_my_passion @paradoxsports @rhinoskinsolutions @beastfingersclimbing @thenorthface_climb @evolv_worldwide

A post shared by Mo Beck (@mo.in.mountains) on

Maureen Beck was born without her left hand and most of her left forearm. But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a world champion climber. She’s won the IFSC World Paraclimbing Championships twice—in 2016 and 2014— and more than a half-dozen national-level climbing competitions. She says she’s “differently abled”—but since she’s climbed 5.12, she seems quite able!



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