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After Conquering Half Dome, Paraplegic’s Next Challenge is Skiing

September 17, 1991

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) _ A paraplegic rock climber who used his arms to clamber to the 2,200-foot summit of Half Dome has dreamed up another challenge: skiing across the Sierra Nevada.

Mark Wellman on Monday completed his second major climb alongside partner Mike Corbett, but their planned eight-day ascent of the granite monolith took 13 days. They finished exhausted but elated.

″We’ve been talking about it for two years, and to not do it was out of the question,″ Corbett said. ″There was no way we were going to come down.″

Corbett, in spite of his determination to finish, wasn’t eager to attempt the feat again. ″I wouldn’t want to push myself any farther. It was much harder than I thought. I feel I barely made it.″

Wellman, a 31-year-old park ranger, was paralyzed from the waist down during a climb of another Yosemite peak in 1982. He and Corbett gained international fame in 1989 when they climbed Yosemite’s 3,300-foot El Capitan.

″The second summit is much sweeter than the first,″ Wellman said.

Beyond immediate visions of a hot bath, Wellman said he doesn’t plan another major climb but is thinking about skiing across the Sierra Nevada in winter. He didn’t give details about his skiing plans.

″I don’t really consider myself disabled,″ he said. ″I really push myself to the limit. I can take it just like an able-bodied person and maybe more.″

The pair reached the summit 8,800 feet above sea level Monday afternoon. Corbett, 37, poured a bottle of champagne over his own head while Wellman doused a group of people who were waiting to greet them, including his girlfriend, Paulette Irving.

″It’s good to see you on top. I wish I was there with you,″ said Corbett’s wife, Nikyra, wiping away a tear as she talked with him from the Yosemite Valley floor through a television link. She is expecting the couple’s first child in six weeks.

Tension ran high during the final part of the climbers’ ascent because they were tired and almost out of water. Before resuming the climb, they split a breakfast bar, the last of the food they took with them.

With Corbett leading, they had to inch up the final 75 feet of Half Dome’s sheer vertical face to reach the summit. Part of that climb required them to swing out on their rope 8 to 10 feet from the wall to get above an overhang.

Corbett essentially had to make the climb twice - once to set pitons, then returning to their former location to haul up the equipment after Wellman pulled himself up to the next pitch.

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