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Paraplegic reaches top of Mount Fuji

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 4, 2003

ATOP MOUNT FUJI, Japan - An American student who lost the use of his legs in a car accident as a teenager in 1996 reached the peak of Mount Fuji today, the first successful climb of its kind.

Keegan Reilly, 22, climbed Japan's highest peak in three days, using a four-wheeled, custom-made mountain bike powered by an arm-driven center crank.

"I'm very, very tired, but I'm overjoyed," Reilly said as he reached the summit. "It's awesome. It took a lot of work, but I feel very privileged to be here."

A round of cheers rang across Fuji's rock and ash strewn crater as Reilly reached the top and stopped by a small wooden Japanese style-shrine, where climbers offer prayers for good luck and prosperity. His eight-member support team then lifted him and his climbing device into the air and spun him around several times to celebrate the success.

Reilly reached the 12,385-foot peak a day earlier than expected. He ran into several problems along the way, including a trail ranger who refused to let him pass for eight hours, loose gravel that had his tires spinning much of the way, and a broken steering device.

Reilly, originally from Soldotna, Alaska, uses a Scarab climbing apparatus made of titanium tubing. The $35,000 machine is designed to roll over boulders and even climb steps.

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