Prosthetic Ice Axes Help Disabled Climber Get Back On The Wall
In 1999, British climber Stephen Ball fell some 2,000 feet during a climb on Alaska's Mount McKinley and lost his right fingers, his left leg, part of his left hand and part of his right foot. After such a devastating fall, climbing agained seemed virtually impossible.
But try telling that to Ball. Like any dedicated sports enthusiast, the word quit wasn't in his vocabularly, no matter how worse for the wear he was.
He recently told the Cumberland News: "I just wanted my life back. I wasn’t prepared to pack everything away and say that’s the end of things for me."
Years ago, Ball got help from a revolutionary bionic hand with electronic fingers controlled via his muscle movement. The hand allowed him to do things like tie his shoes and write, and helped him to ease back into climbing.
More recently, he turned to an innovative medical professional for more specialized help. Prosthetic technician Phil Myers hacked together a pair of ice-axe hands for Ball in his spare time. Now, thanks to the effort of Myers, Ball is making some more strides toward becoming the full climber he once was. The prosthetic hands feature built-in ice axes, so that Ball will be able to tackle certain climbs even in the absence of his fingers.
Though the hands make Ball look scarier than Edward Scissorhands, they are adjustable and allow him to tackle ice climbs that ptherwise would be out of the question.