Disabled climber scales obstacles, even if it's Everest

Gary Guller delights in inspiring others, especially kids

Health & Fitness

May 16, 2004|By Aline McKenzie | Aline McKenzie,Dallas Morning News

When Gary Guller crosses his arms, he doesn't do it quite the way other people do. His right arm goes up and holds onto his upper left arm, nearly to the shoulder.

He does that because most of his left arm is missing, lost in a 1986 mountain-climbing accident.

But it doesn't slow him down. Last year, he was on top of the world -- the only one-armed man to stand on the summit of Mount Everest, along with four Sherpas who accompanied him. And that was after leading a team of people with disabilities to the mountain's base camp.

These days, he's still leading expeditions, splitting his time between Austin and Nepal. But he's never forgotten his first look at Mount Everest -- a photo he saw at age 12 that got him interested in mountain climbing.

"At that time, I knew I wanted to climb that mountain," he says.

So he's also working with children, hoping that his words will resonate to inspire them.

"If there's one thing I could tell you today -- and this is very, very important -- you can do anything you want with your life," he tells a group of third-graders at Stevens Park Elementary School in Oak Cliff, Texas. "Feed your mind with knowledge."

He speaks only a few minutes, but afterward, he is swamped by children wanting to know more about his exploits.

"You really made it to the top of a mountain?" one asks from the middle of the crowd. "I really did," he replies.

"Was it cold?"

"Really, really cold," he says.

He tells the kids what it was like to be at the summit of Everest: "It felt like I was in magic land, almost ... we put our heads together and we just cried and cried."

"Why did you want to climb it?" asks 9-year-old Desaray Holland.

"Because when you're a mountain climber, you get a special feeling for certain mountains," he says.

"Sometimes it just takes two or three words, and if it sticks with one kid, that's great," Guller, 37, says afterward.

"I never forget that when I was that age, someone showed me some pictures of climbs they had made, and I thought, 'That's a different world, a different place.'

"Whatever I do, whatever I've done, I get the most satisfaction out of talking to children," he adds.

His appearance at the school was part of the Texas Round-Up, a statewide program launched by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to encourage exercising and eating right.

The program's Web site (www. texasroundup.org) includes an online program for beginning, intermediate and advanced exercisers. Workouts include running, walking, swimming and bicycling.


For more information about Gary Guller, mountain climbing and disabled athletes, visit the Web sites below:

* 2003 multi-disabled trek to Mount Everest base camp: www.teameverest03.org

* Gary Guller: www.garyguller.com

* Disabled Sports USA: www.dsusa.org

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