What Kind of Man-iac Unhooks His Safety Rope 100 Feet High on a Mountainside?
CBN.com -Craig Demartino is an expert rock climber. He started climbing in his 20’s and says he knew right away this was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“When I went climbing for the first time it clicked. It made perfect sense to me. I understood how I needed to move. I understood how the rock wanted to kind of push me this way or that way and I understood I need to do this to counteract that.”
He moved to Colorado so he could climb in the Rocky Mountains. He says the rewards of navigating a difficult climb outweigh the risk involved. “Climbing is one of those things; its calculated risk, you're always managing risk. You’re trying to minimize it always, trying to make sure things are working in your favor. You’re solving problems. You’re trying to figure out how to move upward efficiently.”
In 2002, while climbing with his friend Steve, a miscommunication almost cost Craig his life. Craig climbed to the top of a cliff and readied himself to repel down. Meanwhile, Steve disconnected from the safety rope at the bottom as he prepared to climb up. This sent Craig free-falling 100 feet to the ground below. “I just pulled into the anchor” Craig says, “checked it once more, unclipped my harness from it and just sat back. When I sat back I just started falling.”
Craig’s body smashed into the rocks below, crushing bones and vertebrae and severing an artery in his right leg. He lived through the perilous fall, but his fight for survival was just beginning. “I'm bleeding all over the place and had lost so much blood, both feet were just pulverized. We were 4 miles in the backcountry. I'm really injured. He’s got to figure out how to get me out of there. We just started talking about. ‘OK, what we do next?’”
Steve called 911 and a massive rescue effort to get Craig’s broken body off the mountain began. After five long hours--and with the help of over 20 rescuers, he was finally airlifted to a Colorado hospital. The doctors offered Craig’s wife, Cyndy little hope. Cyndy remembers, “It was kind a coming together like this is very serious. He might actually not make it, and that to me is a really hard thing to come to terms with.”
Craig had emergency surgery and spent the next five days in ICU on a ventilator. He had a broken neck and ribs, punctured lungs, crushed vertebrae, and shattered feet. His life hung in the balance. Craig says, “It was like these waves of pain where you felt like you would come up out it for a little bit then the next wave would just take you all the way back down. Sometimes the pain is so bad you’re throwing up. You can't even talk. (It) sometimes knocks you out.”
The adventurous life he loved so much appeared to be gone forever. He says, “I got into this question of ‘Why did this happen?’ like ‘What am I supposed to do with all this?’ I’ve got this heavy, heavy trauma now that I wasn’t expecting. My life is not anything like what I thought it was going to be. I didn't know if I was ever going to walk, get out of bed, get out of a wheelchair. I went from this life of climbing and outdoor fun, and family to this world of just dark pain and confusion.”
Craig was a Christian, but his relationship with God had not been a priority for some time. While in the hospital, he found a Christian devotional book and opened it up to the date of the accident. The message spoke right to his situation. He remembers, “So I open up to July 21 and it says, ‘How far does God have to go to get your attention?’ And I remember looking at that just thinking, ‘What are the priorities in your life? Is God the first priority or third priority is seventh? What is it? Where is He?’”
There, in his hospital bed, Craig surrendered his situation and his life to God.
He says, “I chose to run to God, simply because I realized I couldn't solve it on my own. There's just no way. This hole is so deep, there's no way I’m going to climb out of this on my own. ‘Please step in here and help me. Guide me through this.’ and boom! God was there. God was in it in a big way. From that day to this day has just put the right people my path. God just kept providing, providing and providing.”
Cyndy also turned to God during their time of need. She remembers, “Before the accident it was easy to treat God as an accessory because I didn’t need Him. But when this accident happened, God moved from that accessory to being the central part of my life. I need Him because I'm not gonna survive this without Him.”
News of Craig’s accident spread around the world. His employer, a Christian publisher, asked Christians everywhere to pray for Craig. Craig says, “The body of Christ is so far-reaching and care so much it is so empowering as a person who’s trying to heal. You realize, ‘I have all these people pulling for me?’ That’s an incredible feeling.”
Craig’s recovery was long and painful. He spent over two months in the hospital, and months later had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. But says God has been with him every step of the way. Craig says, “God was there from the time I left the ledge to the time I am standing here in front of you. God has been so instrumental in my recovery. What a gift every part of this is. The pain is a gift. The healing is a gift. My family is a gift. My life is a gift. And you realize that good and bad it’s all rolled into that one package of being humbled and thankful and just thanking God every day. You know I'm an incredibly blessed person. I mean I'm able to look at my life and go, ‘Oh my gosh, look at what God has done and it's so amazing to me and I'm just humbled and incredibly thankful for it all.
Craig continues to rock climb using a prosthetic limb and custom climbing shoe. He has since ascended some of America’s best climbs, including ‘El Capitan’ in Yosemite National Park. In his book After the Fall, Craig and Cyndy say they are thankful God has walked with them through both the valleys and the mountain peaks of life.
Cyndy says of God, “He’s allowing these things to happen for a real reason. And it’s really a very valuable and important reason; which is to draw us to Jesus.”
Craig says, “If I was going to go back and change it, if I was going to go back and reverse it and have it never happen. I don't know if I would've learned the lessons I've learned. Because now being disabled, I’ve learned and seen what God can do and that depth probably wouldn’t have been there and I really, really love that depth. It is so fascinating and so amazing. I don’t think I’d change that ever.”