Pagels Looks Up to Next Goal: Area parraplegic plans to climb Mount Gladhopiggen in Norway
"I always like to go deeper in the woods and higher up the mountain," said Jeff Pagels, explaining why he is off on a mountain-climbing expedition.
What he is doing would seem impossible, planning to climb the 9,000-foot Mount Galdhopiggen in Norway, if not for the fact that he has done this sort of thing before. Last year, he climbed to 11,300 feet on Washington's Mount Rainier.
This wouldn't be all that unusual. After all, people climb mountains all the time. But Pagels, 51, who lives in Ashwaubenon, is a paraplegic, paralyzed from about the waist down in 1984 when a tree he was cutting down fell on him.
"Ruined my weekend," he said. That cavalier attitude seems characteristic of him.
After his accident, he learned to "sit-ski," and became the fastest at that in the world. Then he began to look for other things to do outdoors, particularly things that were less competitive. "This is much more human-friendly," he said. "You don't have to beat somebody."
Accompanying him on this climb will be another wheelchair-disabled person and five blind Norwegian climbers. They plan to "summit" at the same time, so that no one will be the first to reach the top.
Actually, he said that this climb should be somewhat easier than last year's ascent of Mount Rainier. "Galdhopiggen has dicey places, but it's not as severe or difficult to climb as Rainier," he said. "In retrospect, we probably should have started with Rib Mountain."
Pagels works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, involved in helping communities plan park systems and awarding grants.
Pagels will climb the mountain using a sit-ski developed in partnership with Dave Stubenvoll, an equipment designer, who also will be part of the team climbing the Norwegian mountain. The ski device is fitted with ropes that will be attached ahead of him, allowing him to literally haul himself up the mountain.
Also part of the team will be his two sons, Corey and Chad. "That's part of the whole adventure," he said.
Among the corporate sponsors of Pagels' expedition is Appleton's JanSport, which is furnishing backpacks, clothing and luggage for the trip.
While he is looking forward to reaching the top of the mountain, expected to take about two days, the adventure won't be over then.
"There's an old saying in mountain climbing that summitting is optional, but descending is mandatory," he said. "Most accidents happen on the way down."
In the case of Rainier, the climb up took 31/2 days; the descent took six hours. The team will be cautious, he said, but that won't stem the thrill of it.
"I'm just excited that I have the technology to go outside and do the things that so-called normal people do," he said.