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Amputee climbs back from fall that changed his life

Craig DeMartino, of Loveland, climbs in the Bercy in Paris, France at the Climbing and Paraclimbing World Championships in September. / Courtesy of Craig DeMartino

Ten years ago, Loveland climber Craig DeMartino plummeted 100 feet from the top of the classic Rocky Mountain National Park route Whiteman, free falling onto the unforgiving sharp talus below.

He smacked a tree about 20 feet before hitting the ground, standing him upright. His heels struck the ground first with the impact so strong it blew out the front of his sticky climbing shoes.

A shock wave swiftly traveled up his spine, breaking his back and fracturing his neck. His lung was punctured, his shoulder torn.

A simple miscommunication with his climbing partner led to the accident. DeMartino thought he was coming down. His belayer, Fort Collins climber Steve Gorham, thought he was coming up.

Paramedics from Estes Park responded to the scene and DeMartino boarded a Flight For Life helicopter to Poudre Valley Hospital, where his wife, Cyndy, waited. Doctors didn’t think he’d make it through the night.

DeMartino did make it through the night alive after being air-lifted out of Rocky Mountain National Park.

He’d eventually lose his right leg eight inches below his knee, but DeMartino did return to climbing. He did go hiking, skiing and biking again with his children, Mayah and Will. He strengthened his faith with God. He became one of the elite paraclimbers in the world.

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