Wesley Pigg hopes that by reaching Pinnacles Hut in a wheelchair he can convince others that they can achieve things they never dreamed were possible.
Wesley enlisted the help of eight friends to help him achieve this seemingly impossible first tramp, which took eight hours up, and six hours down, on a stormy weekend in April.
The 26-year-old physiotherapist has been a paraplegic for the past five years due to a genetic spinal condition and said he was inspired to reach the hut after seeing photos of the views on the popular, and steep, Coromandel tramp. The first challenge was convincing his friends it was a good idea.
“I approached a couple of friends with the idea and they all said straight out, not going to happen,” Wesley said. “But I whittled them down.
“I explained to them you need to clear away your mindset about what’s possible or how you’d normally do the hike, have a clean slate, and then let’s think about how we can make it achievable. I hoped that by testing our abilities, getting out of our comfort zones and doing something different, it would show us all that the things that we think aren’t possible actually are possible with a bit of different thinking and planning.
“Once they were on board, they were totally committed and got stuck in.”
The tramp usually takes about three hours and involves a steep ascent with about 400m of altitude gain. At times, Wesley was carried and hauled up by rope but eventually they reached the hut, greeted by a bemused hut warden who said he was the first to achieve such a feat.
“When it wasn’t so steep it was fine, but the moment there were rocks and tree roots that caught on the front casters, progress became very slow. Sometimes there were three or four of them carrying me, which is amazing on their part.
“It took a lot longer than expected so at the top we were all exhausted, but amazed at ourselves for having done it and elated that we persevered with the idea. We were really proud to get to that point.”
Did he get to enjoy the views?
“Well it was the middle of a storm, so we got to enjoy the bush, but getting onto the ridge of the Pinnacles was just stunning. Even though it was clouded out, seeing the rain going through the bush was really beautiful.”
Wesley is now turning his mind to the next challenge.
“I’ve always had a quiet confidence that we can achieve more than we think we’re capable of, that most of the time we don’t do things because of barriers that exist in our minds more than anything. It’s emboldened me to think about what I do next.”
The ideas? Tackling the longest tramp in the country: Te Araroa Trail.
“I love the idea of doing parts of the TA, or maybe linking it all up by cycling the length of New Zealand and doing some sections of the trail using people in the area to get involved and help, but we will see what happens.”