Doctors told his parents that he would never walk, yet today, Senior Ethan Jensen can say he not only walks, but he climbs mountains too.
On July 7, 2014, Grace Prep Seniors Ethan Jensen and Nathaniel Sargent, along with a mutual church group, headed to the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range (which translates to “Blood of Christ”) in Colorado to climb Horn Peak Mountain.
This is an adventure that would be challenging for your everyday mountain climber.It was no small feat for either of them, especially Jensen who has been living with chronic pain and partial paralysis in his right leg since birth.
Jensen was born with a spinal abnormality which would affect his nerves and mobility.
“When I was an infant, I had appeared healthy except for a minor abnormality on my back which was ignored,” Jensen said, “Two months later, my parents observed that I was not using my legs at all, just pulling myself along using my arms. So they took me back to a surgeon who found that I was completely paralyzed from the waist down and he gave a prognosis that I would be in a wheelchair my entire life, which was discouraging to my family. However, after a surgery to repair my spine, not only can I walk but I can run, or rather ‘gallop’, and apparently climb mountains.”
When Jensen was young, every doctor’s visit progressively left physicians more in awe of the miracle being performed on him. Today he may walk with a limp, but he has overcome more obstacles through his journey than any doctor ever would have predicted.
This summer, twelve people climbed Horn Peak with Jensen and Sargent that hot day in July, but Jensen was about thirty minutes behind those leading the group.
“Everybody kind of ended up finding a group that moved at a pace that suited them, and thats who you went up the mountain with,” Sargent said. “This was my second time climbing Horn Peak, but the view at the top was just as rewarding.”
Jensen meticulously planned his every step along the rigid rocky path, at times using his arms to raise his leg above the jutting rocks. Despite his best efforts, his legs often took a beating on the sharp rocks.
“I went up the mountain with another guy also named Ethan, who was physically but not mentally prepared, which created a balance considering I drew my strength from my confidence,” Jensen said.
His team-mate was afraid of heights, so the two of them witnessed each other succeed, and created a balance between their strengths and weaknesses.
Sargent was ahead of Jensen on the mountain, and he reached the top about twenty minutes before. This enabled Sargent to witness Jensen’s final steps to the top.
Sargent would later recall the triumphant moment with this statement on Instagram:
“Ethan has a disability in one of his legs, it has almost no muscle. It causes him huge amounts of pain, and he can’t really use it. Despite his leg and what doctors tell him he can’t do, Ethan took on the challenge of climbing a 13,450-foot mountain; one of the hardest mountains to climb in the area. I saw him peak, legs covered in blood. I hear him say “I made it!”, and he gives all Glory to God. He faced a challenge he shouldn’t have been able to do, he didn’t give up, and he made it. His leg isn’t a disability, it gives him the ABILITY to inspire others. One of the most inspirational stories and I’m proud to call such a great guy my friend.”
Sargent is now enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he says this experience is something he will be able to draw inspiration from throughout his service.
He plans on going into infantry and possibly reconnaissance, a decision that was clear to him, but of course caused a heartfelt concern from his family, along with a sense of loving pride.
Jensen proudly bears the scars on his legs, that he earned that day from his laborious climb up the mountain; each one reminding him of a moment where he might have stumbled or fallen, and his choice to get back up and keep moving forward.
To say these two seniors are tough is an understatement. They chose to endure the challenge and face it head on, with their eyes steadily set on the peak of the mountain.
As oxygen thinned, they pushed on when others turned back, motivated by the reward of having conquered both a mountain and a mindset.
Jensen is grateful, to say the least for the experience.
“Of course I have those times that I am unhappy, everyone does, but those times pass, and in them I have the opportunity to grow in character and understanding of God. For this I am truly happy; it is a blessing! I would not have it any other way.”