▶️Bend man paralyzed in ice climbing fall keeps adapting, living — and dancing


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From backcountry skiing to white water rafting, climbing, surfing, mountain biking. You name it and Josh Hancock was doing it.

But in 2014 an ice climbing accident left Josh paralyzed. Now nine years later, he’s being featured in a documentary called “Adapted” and is continuing to push boundaries for adaptive sports, adaptive living and beyond. 

Get busy living, or get busy dying. We all have a choice. 

Josh Hancock skis faster than me and probably faster than 90% of the people on the slopes.

“I started skiing when I was about four years old,” Josh says.

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And he does without the use of his legs.

“I love coming out here. I mean, I love being outdoors and the mountains are beautiful and it just feels so good to get out, move my body and challenge myself. Go fast.”

It happened on Dec. 3, 2014.

“I was out ice climbing with a friend. And it was just a practice day. We weren’t doing anything very difficult. And I was resting on the rope, taking a break and, while I was resting, the anchor that my partner built failed.”

He fell about 35 feet.

“Broke my back and became paralyzed from the waist down.”

It’s been nine years now since that fateful day climbing that left Josh paralyzed from the waist down.

“Five weeks in the hospital and then about a month of living in an apartment with my parents and nurses and OTs coming and going. And then about ten more months of learning how to drive and learning how to ride a tricycle like a hand cycle and just kind of figuring out how to move in my body again. And about a year after my injuries, when I felt comfortable starting to learn how to ski again.”

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Josh had to rebuild his life, learn how to function independently and relearn how to do the activities he loved.

“It’s really humbling becoming a beginner again. You know, I was doing a lot of ski mountaineering before my injury. And, you know, that was awesome and it was magical. And then to be back on the bunny slopes and wiping out all the time, it was hard. It’s a process, you know, and it’s hard to imagine, like, OK, where is this going to go some day?”

Today, he’s back to doing most of the sports and outdoor activities he was passionate about before the accident.

“I try to give myself as many options as possible. When people invite me to go do something, I want to be able to say ‘yes’ as much as I can. So I go mountain biking. I have an off road hand cycle. I have a couple of surfboards. I love to go surfing, I have a whitewater raft.”

It goes beyond outdoor pursuits. He works as an environmental engineer in his day job, still travels the world and he recently agreed to step outside his comfort zone and perform a rehearsed dance on stage with his girlfriend in front of an audience.

“I have kind of a saying that anything that makes me feel scared and excited, I have to do it.”

His girlfriend Abby says that’s why Josh dates her, with a chuckle and twinkle in her eye. 

That pursuit to live life to the fullest and push the boundaries of what some may think is possible. That attitude caught the eye of filmmakers.

In 2019, Josh became one of the main subjects of a documentary film, which is now in post production. The working title is “Adapted.”

“We’re really trying to tell this story about how how healing the outdoors and sport can be after people have experienced traumatic accidents and injuries.”

Josh hopes the film will inspire people in similar situations and far beyond. 

“You have to face the sadness of what’s happened and the loss. That’s real and that grief is real. But I also told myself early on that, you know, I think I only get to live once and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Get busy living or get busy dying. 

“You got a saying: If you want to be the (expletive), you got to ski the (expletive).” 

Josh and the filmmakers of “Adapted” are still working on raising funds to complete the documentary. If you’d like to learn more, watch the trailer or donate, head to adaptedthefilm.com.


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