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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Paraplegic scales Mount Fuji
Keegan Reilly and one of his team
Mr Reilly said he felt 'tired but privileged' to reach the summit
An American man who lost the use of his legs in a car crash has reached the summit of Japan's highest peak, Mount Fuji.

Keegan Reilly took four days to complete the ascent, using a purpose-built titanium climbing bike, propelled by a hand-crank and equipped with 42 gears and disc brakes.

More than 20,000 people climb Mount Fuji each year, but this is believed to be the first unassisted ascent by a paraplegic climber.

"I'm very, very tired," the Oregon State University student said, as he reached the crater on the top of the 3,776 metre (12,385 foot) mountain.

"But I feel very privileged to be here," the 22-year-old said. "A very few people use their legs to go up there. Here I am, just using my arms."

But Mr Reilly's achievement was not without its tense moments.

Just after setting out, an official stopped him to say he was not allowed to use his equipment on the mountain path.

I want to show people what I am able to do. Maybe it will inspire them
Keegan Reilly
Bicycles are normally banned on Mount Fuji, but Mr Reilly's team had already negotiated with Japanese authorities to grant him an exception.

It took hours to convince the official to let him pass, and Mr Reilly said afterwards: "I thought it was over."

Then, not long after he set off again, the steering column on his bike had to be repaired.

But despite the setbacks, Mr Reilly and his eight-member team reached the top of the mountain a day earlier than planned.

Mr Reilly has already climbed Colorado's Mount Elbert and California's Mount Shasta, and he is not about to stop now.

Next in his sights is Mount Rainier in Washington state, and after that he is hoping to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America.

"I want to show people what I am able to do," Mr Reilly said. "Maybe it will inspire them."

"I hope to climb one mountain every year," he added.




SEE ALSO:
70-year-old claims Everest record
22 May 03  |  South Asia
Transatlantic call saves trekker
03 Sep 03  |  Beds/Bucks/Herts


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