Rock Climbing, Abseiling & Canyoning

This Guy Just Conquered The Summit Of A Climb That Once Left Him Paralysed And Nearly Dead

18 years ago, Paul Pritchard had a life altering accident trying to climb the "Totem Pole' in Tasmania. Now he's back to reach the top...

Photo: Doing It Scared

Eighteen years ago, Paul Pritchard stood at the base of the ‘Totem Pole’, a sea slate in Tasmania, and planned his route to the summit.

For climbers like Pritchard, who travel regularly between Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan and other iconic mountains, this would be a fairly normal start to the day of finding a spot, setting up and beginning the climb. This particular morning would prove to be a pivotal moment for Pritchard however. Before he began his climb, he swung out and a boulder struck him on the head, leaving him unconscious on the rock for seven hours until emergency services could rescue him.

When he woke from a come, eight days later, the head injury had left half of his body paralysed and his thoughts and speech affected.

Photo: Matthew Newton

It’s impossible to know how any of us would deal with such a tremendous accident. Pritchard chose to embrace climbing after the accident instead of turning away from it, writing a book about his experience leading up to the accident.

“It was either write a book or just lie in the day room watching reruns of The Bold and the Beautiful,” Paul told Huck Magazine in a recent interview.

“Writing my book aided my recovery in two ways; not only was it cathartic going over my trauma, but also just the process of using words again was extremely helpful.”

The book proved successful and as he built up strength he found himself returning to the scene of his accident again and again.

I’d constantly make the pilgrimage to the slate,” he says “I started having this mad desire to go and climb it again.”

While Pritchard believed that he could conquer the climb that had beaten him in the past, others were understandably cautious and he found some sponsors began to drop him, unconvinced by his ability to achieve his goal.

Against all odds however, last year Pritchard found himself at the base of the climb again, strapping himself in and making his way to the summit.

“Disabled doesn’t mean unable’ he says. It’s the message in his book, across his website and in all his interviews. It’s the perfect message too, while an accident of this proportion will make changes in your life, Pritchard’s achievements prove it doesn’t have to create an ending.

Doing it Scared Trailer from Rummin Productions on Vimeo.

As well as his successful climb in Tasmania, Pritchard is now back on expeditions, climbing Kilimanjaro and other giants.

His journey from the accident and to the summit of the Totem Pole was recorded and has been made into the documentary Doing It Scared, that will be screened at this year’s BANFF Mountain Film Festival World Tour


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