Handicapped Charleston Native Overcomes Odds to Scale Mount Kilimanjaro

Doug Maxwell lost his left arm and his right leg at age ten, from a horrific childhood accident involving a tree, a power line, and a little boy’s sense of adventure.

That sense of adventure did not appear to dwindle over the years, as the 40-year-old Charleston resident conquered Mount Kilimanjaro — the tallest in Africa at 19,341 feet.

Maxwell has always loved the outdoors — he liked skiing and rock climbing. He was in such great shape that he was able to carry loads comparable to people with full sets of limbs. His only worry about the whole adventure to Kilimanjaro was that he was not sure if his artificial limbs would be able to hold up under all that strain.

However, after a series of training exercises and visits to doctors for improvements on his prosthetics, he signed up for a seven-day tour with Alpine Ascent from Seattle. The group had close to 100 members, composed mostly of guides and porters — who carried most of the camping and ascent equipment.

Maxwell and his group made it to the very top of Mount Kilimanjaro after eight grueling hous of nearly vertical climbs from their highest base camp (climbing up there alone took the better part of four days).

“The best way I can describe it is like something out of Middle Earth from the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ” he said. “It has an otherworldly feel.” Maxwell said he feels blessed to have been able to scale the peak, and that left with just one arm and one leg he felt he was still better off than most people.

“I may not be the best at everything, but the idea of just participating and being able to do things, even if it’s more of a struggle, I can say I was in the game. It’s sort of my philosophy.”, Maxwell said.