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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 5 - 11, 2002


Muffy Davis tops 
Mount Shasta in
seven-day climb

Express Staff Writer

For 29-year-old Muffy Davis, who hasn’t had the use of her legs since she was 16, climbing to the 14,162-foot summit of Mount Shasta in Northern California was the toughest thing she has ever done.

Paralympian and Sun Valley native Muffy Davis, right, perched on top of California’s 14,000-foot Mount Shasta with fellow disabled climbers Peter Rieke, Mark Wellman and Keegan Reilly. Courtsey photo

Davis, who grew up in Sun Valley and was paralyzed in a 1989 ski accident on Baldy, perched atop the massive, snow swept volcano at 11 a.m. Saturday, after seven consecutive days of climbing. Using contraptions called snow pods, which look like small hand-powered tanks, Davis and three other disabled athletes gradually cranked their way up the mountain.

"For me, it was probably the single hardest thing I’ve ever done physically or mentally," said Davis via telephone from Northern California Tuesday morning. "I never, ever would have guessed that my body could do that, or that mentally I could do it."

Davis said each arm crank of her 45-pound snow pod propelled her about an inch and a half up the mountain. All said, she estimated that she cranked the machine 250,000 times during the climb.

The snow pods used on the Mount. Shasta climb were invented by fellow climber Peter Reike, 48, of Pasco, Wash., and are expected to open mountaineering to more climbers with disabilities. They are 100 percent arm powered, have 49-speed gear boxes and can climb 50-degree slopes.

Reike, who broke his neck and back during a 1994 climb, developed the snow pods with help from friends over six years. In 1998, he ascended Oregon’s 11,240-foot Mount Hood.

Other climbers to reach the top of Mount5 Shasta on Saturday included Mark Wellman, who has climbed El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and Keegan Reilly, who reached the summit of Colorado’s 14,433-foot Mount Elbert last summer.

Wellman, 42, of Truckee, Calif., a former national park ranger, suffered a spinal cord injury in a 1982 climbing accident.

Keegan, 21, of Eugene, Ore., an Oregon State University student, lost the use of his legs after a 1996 car accident.

Muffy Davis takes a break from cranking her arm powered snow pod up Mt. Shasta. Courtsey photo

The group climbed primarily at night to take advantage of firm snow conditions, and slept about five hours each day, Davis said. On Friday night, mountain weather made things interesting for the team when an enormous, six-hour thunder storm swept upward from the valley floor and enveloped Shasta’s summit.

The team weathered the storm at nearly 13,000 feet, including more than a foot of fresh snow, and at 4:30 a.m., Reike made the decision to make a summit bid. After thawing the snow pod transmissions using camp stoves, the group began cranking around 6 a.m. and reached the summit five hours later.

"It kind of shows what you can do together, and with a great support team," Davis said. "It was very rewarding to find out that I can push myself that far."

Shasta, however, isn’t the first mountain Davis has climbed. Figuratively, she’s surmounted slopes few can relate to. After being paralyzed at 16, the young woman with ski racing aspirations lifted her chin and learned to ski again using a monoski.

This winter at the 2002 Paralympics in Salt Lake City, Davis took home three silver medals. Another childhood dream was fulfilled weeks later when Sun Valley Co. renamed a ski run on Baldy ¾ Muffy’s Medals ¾ in her honor.

So, what’s next for this accomplished young woman?

"I need to get a job," she said, adding that she’s been doing some motivational speaking and will probably continue down that avenue.

There’s little doubt she’ll succeed.

"I am about success through determination. I am here to live the best I can and, through that, lead others into the best they can be," a 15-year-old Davis wrote.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.