Effort to Climb Skyscraper in Wheelchair Captivates Hong Kong

HONG KONG — Racked by chilly and dizzy with vertigo, Lai Chi-wai struck his helmet many times to keep 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 in the wind for practically an hour, he referred to as off the climb, simply wanting his aim. He was overwhelmed with disappointment. But in the method, he had impressed a metropolis wearied by political turmoil and an unrelenting pandemic, and raised greater than $700,000 for charity.

During an interview on Monday, Mr. Lai, 38, watched employees 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.

“Looking up, I can see the adverse conditions I faced, and feel the fear and helplessness as I was suspended midair,” he mentioned. “I also saw how close I was to reaching my goal.”

Mr. Lai mentioned he had exceeded his personal expectations of his energy, resilience and resolution making throughout his 10-hour ascent. Still, he mentioned, “I didn’t expect that I would be unable to finish, when there was still some strength left in my body. I have no excuses to give as an athlete.”

Mr. Lai is a four-time winner of the Asian Rock Climbing Championship and as soon as ranked eighth in the world in the game. He grew to become paralyzed from the waist down after a automobile accident 9 years in the past.

Determined 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 grew to become his subsequent goal. He sought, as he put it, to “express the Lion Rock spirit in an urban jungle,” by “climbing up continuously.”

He started his ascent Saturday morning beneath blue skies and mild breezes. But by midafternoon, sturdy winds had been tangling the ropes he used to climb. His wheelchair rocked to and fro, 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 crew of supporters and rescuers despatched him messages on his walkie-talkie asking whether or not he wished to cease.

Days after he referred to as time on the trouble, he mentioned, scenes of the climb nonetheless stuffed his head, holding him awake at night time. Back on the skyscraper on Monday, his fingers had 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 increase $735,000 to fund analysis on a robotic exoskeleton for sufferers with spinal wire accidents.

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

“I can only accept this version of events,” he mentioned. “But as an athlete, I don’t know if this is the best ending. I don’t have closure yet. I’m still looking for answers.”


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