Man With Cerebral Palsy Climbs El Capitan, Inspires Disabled Children

PHOTO Steve Wampler is in the process of climbing Yosemite?s El Cap and he?s doing it despite his Cerebral Palsy that?s left him in a wheelchair for much of his life.PlayCourtesy Wampler Foundation
WATCH American Heart: Rock-Climbing With Cerebral Palsy

Stephen Wampler could be called the king of pull-ups. He's pulling himself up El Capitan, the famed mountain in Yosemite National Park, five inches at a time.

"I've got about another 650 feet to go," Wampler said by phone. "I am feeling just tired, exhausted and I'm ready to get this thing over with."

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American Heart: Rock-Climbing With Cerebral Palsy

"This thing" would be grueling for anyone, but for Wampler it's especially so. He was born with cerebral palsy.

With the help of two friends and a uniquely crafted climbing chair, Wampler is aiming to be the first person with cerebral palsy to reach the top of the El Capitan. It's a towering challenge. The mountain is twice as high as the Empire State building.

Wampler trained for a year, learning how to use a system of ropes to climb.

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Spreading Joy to Special Kids

The climb is a challenge, but adventure is nothing new for Wampler.

Wampler's Love of Wilderness Started at Camp

Wampler's desire for adventure began when he was a young boy and his parents put him in summer camp at the age of nine.

"Going to camp as a kid opened so many doors for me, and that's when I experienced the real adventure of nature," Wampler said in a video on his website.

Wampler attended the camp for nine summers. He says he has carried the confidence that the camp gave him for the rest of his life.

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He went on to college, started a business and fell in love. He and his wife Elizabeth have two children.

"When I met him, at first I thought, I bet he's having a really hard life, I bet he broke my heart. I thought people were probably mean to him, I thought he was sad everyday, I thought he was alone everyday -- and I quickly learned that nothing could be further from the truth," Elizabeth Wampler said in a video on their website.

When Wampler found out that his beloved childhood camp had closed, he took action. Elizabeth and Stephen formed Camp WAMP in 2004. WAMP stands for Wheelchair Adventure Mountain Programs.

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Wampler said he set up the camp under one condition: that no kid would ever have to pay to come.

Wampler In Climb of His Life

Now, to raise money for the camp, Wampler is on the climb of his life. He began on Sunday.

He and his team have spent three days climbing and sleeping on El Capitan, fighting grueling conditions.

More than raising money, Wampler said that he's on a mission to prove "that kids with physical disabilities can do more than they can imagine if they put their mind to it."

Wampler has taught everyone around him that disabilities don't have to limit you, but one lesson might be the tallest of all.


When asked about what he'd tell his wife and family, Wampler started to laugh and cry.

"I love you and I can't wait to get off the top, get off this rock," he said.

To Leave A Message Or Ask Steve Wampler A Question, Click Here

To Donate to Camp Wamp, Visit Their Website By Clicking Here

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To Watch More of Steve's Journey, Click Here