Scott Doolan was 17 when he was paralysed in a severe motorcycle accident. This week, at 28 years old, he became the first paraplegic to reach Everest Base Camp with minimal assistance. Doolan made the 65-kilometre trek in 10 days, climbing mostly on his hands. For most, the hike takes somewhere between nine and 12 days.
To make the trip, Doolan used a super light carbon fibre wheelchair and a technique he calls "wheelbarrowing"—climbing with his hands while a friend, Matt Laycock, held his legs.
"I'd do as much as I could in a chair, and when there were sections of stairs I'd get out on my hands and sort of walk along on my hands or jump on the back of a sherpa or Matt," Doolan told the ABC. "As we were trekking we had people stop and cry and tell us we were amazing, and that emotion is so raw, I think that was probably more of a highlight than reaching Base Camp."
Doolan got interested in fitness in his 20s, a few years after the motorcycle accident that paralysed him. He trained intensively to get ready for the Everest trek, including wearing oxygen restricting masks during gym sessions to prepare for the high altitudes.
But there were still tough moments on the climb.
"There were times I wanted to quit, but I knew with what I've been through before in life, I could get through this… I was just thinking of the finish line, that visual picture of Base Camp," Doolan told the ABC. "Your mind is your only limitation."
Next, Doolan says, he wants to compete in the 2020 Paralympics as a swimmer.