HONG KONG — Racked by chilly and dizzy with vertigo, Lai Chi-wai struck his helmet repeatedly to remain 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 toes, 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 within the wind for almost an hour, he referred to as off the climb, simply in need of his aim. He was overwhelmed with disappointment. However within the course of, he had impressed a metropolis wearied by political turmoil and an unrelenting pandemic, and raised greater than $700,000 for charity.
Throughout an interview on Monday, Mr. Lai, 38, watched staff 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.
“Trying up, I can see the hostile circumstances I confronted, and really feel the concern and helplessness as I used to be suspended midair,” he mentioned. “I additionally noticed how shut I used to be to reaching my aim.”
Mr. Lai mentioned he had exceeded his personal expectations of his power, resilience and determination making throughout his 10-hour ascent. Nonetheless, he mentioned, “I didn’t count on that I might be unable to complete, when there was nonetheless some power left in my physique. I’ve no excuses to offer as an athlete.”
Mr. Lai is a four-time winner of the Asian Rock Climbing Championship and as soon as ranked eighth on the earth within the sport. He turned paralyzed from the waist down after a automobile accident 9 years in the past.
Decided 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 turned his subsequent goal. He sought, as he put it, to “categorical the Lion Rock spirit in an city jungle,” by “climbing up constantly.”
He started his ascent Saturday morning beneath blue skies and delicate breezes. However by midafternoon, robust winds had been tangling the ropes he used to climb. His wheelchair rocked back and forth, 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 toes, because the wind whipped him relentlessly, his arms cramped and his bandaged fingers smarted from blisters. He additionally felt his physique temperature drop. A group 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 hassle, he mentioned, scenes of the climb nonetheless stuffed his head, maintaining him awake at evening. Again 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 twine accidents.
Nicely-wishers showered him with reward on-line. However what many noticed as an unimaginable feat of endurance nonetheless carried, for him, the sting of an unfulfilled dream.
“I can solely settle for this model of occasions,” he mentioned. “However as an athlete, I don’t know if that is the perfect ending. I don’t have closure but. I’m nonetheless searching for solutions.”