Cameron “Cam” Shaw-Doran has become the first person ever to complete the entire climb up the Mount Washington auto road in a wheelchair. At 5:30 a.m. August 1 the Franconia resident and Plymouth State University business major began his venture up the tallest mountain in the northeastern United States. He arrived at the summit 14 hours and 32 minutes later.
Cam explains, “My friend Geoff Krill who is also in a wheelchair mentioned that a month and a half ago someone else tried to make the climb in a wheelchair but only made it part way. We decided to try it ourselves.”
Cam became acquainted with Geoff through the White Mountain Adaptive Sports program at Loon Mountain, where Geoff coordinates snow sports and Cam participates in the ski program. “Neither one of us trained for it,” says Cam. “We brought two people with us to carry our water and the video camera, but no one was allowed to touch the wheelchairs under any circumstances.”
The average grade of the 7.6 mile auto road is a challenging 12 degrees. However, portions of the road are 22 percent grade, and two miles of the trip meant wheeling through gravel. That was where the climb ended for Geoff. “I’d been having trouble with my equipment, and had to change to another chair after about five miles,” he explains. “It still wasn’t enough to get over the gravel. I made it six miles.”
Along with the grueling trek, Cam also had to contend with the Mount Washington weather. Throughout the day thunder and lightning storms moved all around the mountain, threatening to force a premature end to the climb. “I kept going,” says Cam. “My thumbs were numb during the last few miles, and with the moisture from the rain and clouds I had a hard time keeping my grip on the wheels. My elbow felt like it was going to explode, and I had to wrap it in ace bandage. When I hit the 22 percent grade I had one of the team members walk behind me in case I started to tip over backwards, but they weren’t allowed to touch the chair.”
Cam, who has been in the chair for seven years, grew up snowboarding and skiing. “I try to do a thousand miles of biking a summer,” says Cam. “When I finally made it to the summit of Mount Washington and saw the “1821” sign, it was an incredible feeling of accomplishment.”
Lives have been changed through lesser achievements, but Cam humbly looks at his awe-inspiring accomplishment as another summer trek. Says Cam, “This time I climbed a big mountain, that’s all.”
The entire trip was videotaped, and Cam hopes to turn it into a documentary.