To the Top of the Chief

On 31 July 2005 Brad Zdanivsky became the first quadriplegic ever to reach the summit of the Stawamus Chief in Squamish, British Columbia. Brad began his ascent at 5:45 am and reached the top at approximately 7:30 pm. After reaching the top of the climb Brad was flown back down via helicopter. Congratulations Brad!

Project Statement

Quadriplegics are left out of almost every sport. The “extreme” sports are not even comprehensible to most. We are awkward and weak. Generally, we have use of only shoulders and biceps. We have poor balance, and no real use of our hands. Building from these neurological limitations is very difficult and usually deters far too many from exercise, and sports. Our project is about starting a trend that will see more quadriplegics enjoy adventure sports that are not currently accessible to people with higher-level spinal cord injuries.


By documenting the first quadriplegic to ever attempt to return to climbing, we will set a precedent for even more daunting challenges done by others. To do this we need to totally redesign standard climbing equipment so it will be both safe and comfortable for quadriplegics. Media regarding our endeavor aims to educate and inspire viewers. To show what can be achieved by determined climbers that push themselves to reach their goals – in spite of their physical limitations.

Research & Development

To see a person with a severe disability fighting up a long climb will force audiences to re-evaluate any preconceived ideas about what is impossible. After all the research and development on this equipment is finalized — which is the crux of the project — we will make it available to the public so other climbers with disabilities can take part in the mountain experience! For now all we can do is set precedence. Insurance, legal and logistical concerns will, keep this project modest and focused until we can prove these systems. After these trials we will look for financial backing to create a program to support others in both local and international expeditions.


There have been many questions and comments about patents and selling the gear we have designed. First, the liability is a huge deterrent. Second, the small market and low incomes of quadriplegics would make this a losing business. Third, the efforts of so many volunteers blurs over the years, and makes it impossible to market them as there is no owner of the design. But, these are details. The real reason we don’t look to make money from this project is that we all want to see other quadriplegics go climbing. The best way to do that is to publish our working designs, our failures and try to build an international community working together to continue to improve the equipment. One should not need to be paid in cash to help your brethren. (This page will soon support forums for this purpose)

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Team Vertical

This project is a huge commitment. The time, effort and amount of money involved is enormous — much more than we ever imagined. The team is made up of a small group of friends and family, supported by local businesses and non-profit organizations. The crew is not paid. They volunteer their time because they are excited to be involved with a World’s First.

The Vertical Challenge Project and Team

The goal of Vertical Challenge is more than simply getting Brad to the top of a mountain. It is equally a vehicle for the promotion of quadriplegic participation in adventure sports through research, education and public awareness. Brad and his team have already succeeded in showing what can be achieved by a determined athlete who pushes himself to attain a goal—in spite of physical limitations. In documenting the first effort ever by a quadriplegic to return to climbing, Vertical Challenge hopes to present an example of what perseverance, teamwork and technical innovation can accomplish. Brad’s ultimate success will be in setting a precedent that will make climbing technically and psychologically more accessible to quadriplegics.

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