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14-year-old with cerebral palsy summits the Marmolada in Italy's Dolomites

Posted on: May 23, 2019


Getulio Felipe reaches the end of the via ferrata, which is buried in snow, on Punta Penia's Normal Route, Marmolada, Dolomites, Italy. He is belayed by guide Alessio Nardelotto with his friend Pedro McCardell offering support from behind. [Photo] Stefano FabrisGetulio Felipe reaches the end of the via ferrata, which is buried in snow, on Punta Penia's Normal Route, Marmolada, Dolomites, Italy. He is belayed by guide Alessio Nardelotto with his friend Pedro McCardell offering support from behind. [Photo] Stefano Fabris

Doctors predicted Getulio Felipe would never walk after a complication at birth left him with cerebral palsy. But the 14-year-old Brazilian learned to walk at age 7, and on Sunday, April 21, he summited the Punta Penia (3343m) on the Marmolada, the highest point of the Dolomites in Italy.

"For every problem, there is a solution," he says in Portuguese on a video with subtitles that is on a GoFundMe page for a documentary film titled, "Driven—A story about (Im)possible." The video shows him walking, running and playing soccer.

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Felipe summited the Normal Route on Punta Penia, which ascends a glacier to a via ferrata on a rocky ridge and then up a final snowfield to the summit. He was accompanied by his good friend Pedro McCardell, who organized the expedition, and a guide, Alessio Nardelotto. A backup team was also nearby.

Felipe took nearly nine hours after leaving the Pian Dei Fiacconi refuge (2626m) at 6:15 a.m., according to a press release.

Before the climb, a storm cycle deposited a fresh layer of snow. Katrina Rast, Lyfx's community coordinator, was along to document the events and wrote a blog for the Lyfx website:

To try and help with walking in the deep snow, they wore snowshoes...which turned out to be impossible to use for someone who can't lift their feet. In one hour, Getulio made it 50 meters. If he were to make the summit, he would have to walk at this pace for 40 hours, and the climb only got more difficult. We all thought it was impossible....

Felipe labors up fresh snow on the Marmolada with Nardelotto and McCardell. [Photo] Stefano FabrisFelipe labors up fresh snow on the Marmolada with Nardelotto and McCardell. [Photo] Stefano Fabris

That night we saw a somber Getulio. I think the reality of what he was trying to achieve weighed hard on him. Many discussions were had for escape routes and helicopter pick-ups. We wanted so much for him to succeed, but how could this ever happen? He had taken one hour to walk 50 meters on low-angle snow and here we were faced with much steeper terrain and a 700-meter elevation gain....

One step at a time, Getulio pushed on. Four times the guides suggested going back and they could call for the helicopter, but Getulio demanded that they continue....

The press release reads, "From the top of the steep climbing it took another two hours to reach the summit where Getulio sat down looking at the view and declared, 'what a good life.'" A helicopter took him down.

Felipe with his team of guides, supporters and friends on the summit of the Punta Penia (3343m). [Photo] Stefano FabrisFelipe with his team of guides, supporters and friends on the summit of the Punta Penia (3343m). [Photo] Stefano Fabris

After the climb, Rast wrote:

As a gift, he gave a signed flag from his favorite soccer team to the guides, getting all involved to write on it, a gift that meant everything to Getulio. As if this wasn't enough, the boots that he had been given to climb the mountain, he gave to the guides so that other people may have the opportunity that he had. Getulio had only an old pair of shoes himself, and these boots could have lasted him a lifetime, but he thought it more important to share and give the opportunity to others. He said, it's not about him; it's about giving to others, to inspire and to create opportunity.

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