He Climbed 800 Feet in a Wheelchair. Hong Kong Watched in Awe.


HONG KONG — Racked by chilly and dizzy with vertigo, Lai Chi-wai struck his helmet repeatedly to remain alert.

On he went, pull after hand-searing pull, as he tried to scale a Hong Kong skyscraper by rope whereas seated in his wheelchair.

At 800 ft, although, the gusts grew stronger, relentless. The wheelchair started to spin. Mr. Lai, a former champion rock climber who had by no means been afraid of heights, started to concern for his life.

After swinging within the wind for almost an hour, he referred to as off the climb, simply wanting his purpose. He was overwhelmed with disappointment. However within the course of, he had impressed a metropolis wearied by political turmoil and an unrelenting pandemic, and raised greater than $700,000 for charity.

Throughout an interview on Monday, Mr. Lai, 38, watched staff take away the ropes and anchors he had used for his climb alongside the glass facade of the 1,050-foot Nina Tower — a constructing as tall because the Eiffel Tower — two days earlier than.

“Trying up, I can see the adversarial situations I confronted, and really feel the concern and helplessness as I used to be suspended midair,” he mentioned. “I additionally noticed how shut I used to be to reaching my purpose.”

Mr. Lai mentioned he had exceeded his personal expectations of his energy, resilience and choice making throughout his 10-hour ascent. Nonetheless, he mentioned, “I didn’t count on that I might be unable to complete, when there was nonetheless some energy left in my physique. I’ve no excuses to present as an athlete.”

Mr. Lai is a four-time winner of the Asian Rock Climbing Championship and as soon as ranked eighth on the earth within the sport. He turned paralyzed from the waist down after a automobile accident 9 years in the past.

Decided to maintain climbing, he ascended Lion Rock, a steep mountain ridge that represents Hong Kong’s spirit of resilience amid adversity, in his wheelchair in 2016.

A skyscraper turned his subsequent goal. He sought, as he put it, to “categorical the Lion Rock spirit in an city jungle,” by “climbing up repeatedly.”

He started his ascent Saturday morning underneath blue skies and delicate breezes. However by midafternoon, sturdy winds have been tangling the ropes he used to climb. His wheelchair rocked from side to side, generally threatening to ram into the constructing.

He climbed one other two dozen tales because the gusts continued to blast in bursts of 5 to 10 minutes, pausing to untangle the ropes.

At 800 ft, because the wind whipped him relentlessly, his arms cramped and his bandaged fingers smarted from blisters. He additionally felt his physique temperature drop. A staff of supporters and rescuers despatched him messages on his walkie-talkie asking whether or not he needed to cease.

Days after he referred to as time on the trouble, he mentioned, scenes of the climb nonetheless stuffed his head, protecting him awake at night time. Again on the skyscraper on Monday, his fingers have been uncooked, so he used solely the tip of his thumb to spin the tires of his wheelchair.

As of Monday, his efforts have helped elevate $735,000 to fund analysis on a robotic exoskeleton for sufferers with spinal twine accidents.

Properly-wishers showered him with reward on-line. However what many noticed as an unimaginable feat of endurance nonetheless carried, for him, the sting of an unfulfilled dream.

“I can solely settle for this model of occasions,” he mentioned. “However as an athlete, I don’t know if that is the very best ending. I don’t have closure but. I’m nonetheless on the lookout for solutions.”



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