Paul Pritchard: Spirit of Adventure winner 2018

By Australian Geographic | October 26, 2018

Paul Pritchard has taken out this year’s Spirit of Adventure award for his determination to overcome all physical barriers.

During an attempt in 1998 to climb Tasmania’s infamous Totem Pole – a slender dolerite column at Cape Hauy – Paul Pritchard’s climbing rope dislodged a block that scythed 25m through the air, smashing his skull. The traumatic brain injury resulted in hemiplegia, which is the loss of movement on one side of the body, and aphasia, an inability to comprehend or formulate language.

During a year spent in hospital, Paul realised that his adventurous spirit was still thriving, despite his physical barriers. When he walked 100m around the rehab centre Paul thought that, with perseverance, he might be able to claw back some tiny semblance of the life he had before. So, he slowly got back to mountains again. Firstly hill walking in Wales, then three trips to Africa – climbing 1000m higher each time and culminating in an all-disabled expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania seven years after the accident.

Paul has continued to pursue an adventurous life as a kayaker, cyclist and rock climber. In 2016 Paul climbed, one-handed and one-footed up a rope, to reach the top of the Totem Pole that had evaded him 18 years earlier. In 2017 he led a team of disabled cyclists from Australia’s lowest point Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre its highest -the summit of Mt Kosciuszko- a journey of more than 2000km.

Read about all the winners of the 2018 Australian Geographic Society Awards

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