On September 1, 2008, Bonner Paddock, then 33, began a weeklong climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as an infant, Paddock, in leg braces, ascended 19,340 feet. He was joined by his friend Paul Flores, fellow climber Dilly Dilworth, team leader Tim Guy, and Tanzanian guides Minja and Moody. This recounting of Bonner’s excruciating eight-hour trek to the summit, an excerpt from Bonner’s recent book, One More Step, is a fascinating look at the way trust, determination, and even anger can fuel success.
Day seven, 11 p.m. I was up and dressed, wearing four layers but still freezing. It was deadly cold, 15 below or less—without doubt the coldest it had been since we began. Sitting alone in my tent, I was already short of breath. My mouth was dry, and my tongue felt twice its normal size. I drank some hot water, warming my hands on the mug, and then slowly, painfully, strapped on my braces and boots. The moment I slipped my feet into the boots, I knew I had made a mistake—a big mistake—by not putting them into my sleeping bag with the rest of my gear. They were frozen solid. My already stiff feet were now encased in what felt like concrete.