GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - Nine disabled veterans are planning to make the 13,700-foot climb up Grand Teton Wednesday. They spent Sunday practicing on the lower levels of the Tetons.
Michael Johnson, who was an avid hiker until his right foot was crushed while serving in Afghanistan, said there was a time when he thought he might never be able to return to his favorite pastime.
"I walked with a cane for about two years," said Johnson.
With the help of Exum Mountain Guides, a Jackson-based guide company, Johnson and other disabled veterans from all corners of the country are now able to make the climb of their dreams.
"Oftentimes people have perceived obstacles and difficulties that they don't feel they can overcome, and by bringing them out here and giving them a set of skills, it teaches them that they're able to overcome obstacles," said Brendan O'Neill, with Exum Mountain Guides.
Airforce veteran Elizabeth Christie is making her first climb since being diagnosed with a very painful form of fibromyalgia.
"Every surface I touch is like touching broken glass," said Christie. "My dream was always to be a mountain climber and when I got fibro, I never thought, 'Well, that's done.'"
The veterans will spend the next few days practicing their climbing skills before scaling Grand Teton Wednesday morning.
The trip was organized by Paradox Sports, a Colorado nonprofit that seeks to involve people with disabilities in outdoor activities.