ASCENT: The Story of Hugh Herr tells Hugh’s story and aired on the National Geographic channel.
As a young rock climber, Hugh Herr attempted a short summit with a friend after an ice climb on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. During the hike the two climbers were inundated with a blizzard that left them entirely lost. That began a fierce struggle for survival that lasted days. National Guard troops were sent in. One man died trying to find them. Hypothermic and hallucinating, and only hours from death, the two were found by a stray cross-country skier and extracted.
That was only the beginning. Hugh lost both legs to frostbite, 6 inches below the knee. During Herr’s recovery he became determined to climb again and soon crafted his own prosthetic legs specifically designed for climbing. His new legs had small feet to gain traction on thin rock ledges the width of a dime, or feet with fangs for ice climbing. He also increasing his height and was able to reach hand and footholds previously out of reach. His revelation? He was now a better climber with prosthetic legs than had been with real legs. He focused the same energy on his education. He now runs an MIT lab on prosthetic limbs and has made significant strides that have changed countless lives.