The Manitou Springs Incline in Colorado is one of the nation's most difficult hikes, even though it is less than a mile in distance. The challenge is making the climb of more than 2,000 feet in elevation.
Now imagine doing that with your hands.
Tyler Walker, a Paralympic ski champ who has no legs, can tell you all about it.
"Unfortunately, on your hands it's a brutal experience, because your arms are not designed to bear weight like that," Walker says Wednesday, four days after finishing the climb."I'm pretty strong already, but that -- I mean, I'm still feeling it."
Climbing this old railroad track is clearly an amazing accomplishment, but Walker, who has won multiple gold medals in the Mono Skier-X event at the Winter X Games, downplays it.
"This is kind of normal for me," Walker says. "I've always been doing that stuff ... I just wanted to go hike this thing, just because it's there, and to hang out with my friends. I wasn't really trying to prove anything."
Walker, 27, was born with lumbar sacral agenesis, a condition that affects the spinal cord. That means Walker has no spine after the first vertebra. When he was 4, Walker's legs were amputated at the knees because he had no control of his legs. But because he grew up this way, Walker has never let his condition get in the way of living the life he desires.
"I've always wanted to do active, outdoorsy things," Walker says. "Growing up my friends and I would hike around the backyard and go explore all sorts of stuff, whether it be a mountain or a mine or a lake."
Walker, a member of the United States Adaptive Ski Team for ten years and is a national and international ski champion, says he isn't out to prove anything to anyone. He just wants to enjoy his life. And if his story and accomplishments help to motivate others? Well, that's just an added bonus.
"It's great that people find it inspirational," he says, "but that wasn't my goal at all. To me this was just a normal hike that everyone was doing, and I was like 'I need to go see that,' so I did."
Despite his condition, Walker stresses that he is a regular person with obstacles just like everyone else.
"I have the normal motivation problems," he says. "Like some days, I'm just having a lazy day."
Next up for Walker is World Cup season, which begins in August and will be held in Australia and New Zealand, followed by the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
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