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Two Paraplegics Succeed in Trans-Sierra Ski Journey

April 14, 1993

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) _ Two men who are paralyzed from the waist down succeeded Tuesday in becoming the first paraplegics to scale the Sierra Nevada on cross-country skis.

Mark Wellman, 32, of Truckee, Calif., and Jeff Pagels, 44, of Green Bay, Wis., used small wheelchairs with skis on them and propelled themselves using ski poles.

They began their 50-mile trip across Yosemite’s back country Saturday from just above Lee Vining, near the park’s eastern entrance. The highest point they crossed was 10,850 feet.

They had hoped to complete the trek Monday at Crane Flat at Yosemite’s western entrance, but settled for Tuesday afternoon’s finish because of strong headwinds, park spokeswoman Lisa Dapprich said.

They were accompanied on the trip by two ski patrolmen for safety reasons, but wanted to make the journey unassisted, said Paulette Irving, Wellman’s girlfriend.

Wellman, paralyzed in a 1982 rock-climbing accident, in 1991 he became the first paraplegic to climb Half Dome in Yosemite Valley. He also climbed El Capitan there in 1989.

Pagels, paralyzed when a tree fell on him, and Wellman are members of the U.S. Disabled Cross-Country Ski Team.

The two carried little gear so they could make the trip as quickly as possible. They brought no tents and slept in sleeping bags with ″bivvy″ sacks. They also brought ice axes to make steep traverses.

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