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Three paraplegic climbers whooped and hollered and doused themselves...

GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Texas -- Three paraplegic climbers whooped and hollered and doused themselves with champagne Friday night to celebrate the end of their five-day climb to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.

The trio abandoned their wheelchairs for the last few hundred feet and crawled across sharp rocks and cactus to reach the summit at 7:21 p.m. MDT, said Bill Dunmire, Guadalupe Mountains National Park superintendent.

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'They were doing lots of whooping and they were very glad to be there after five days on the mountain,' Dunmire said. 'They had a bottle of champagne and were dousing themselves with it.

'I asked what they said when they got to the top, and they said, 'We're very glad to be here after five days on the mountain.' I think they were ready to get celebrating.'

It had been feared earlier Friday that a sore hip might keep Dave Kiley of Claremont, Calif., from making the final ascent. But Dunmire said Kiley persevered and completed the climb with Donnie Rodgers of Dallas and Joe Moss of Lancaster, Texas. All three men were suffering from sores and blisters.

'If you've ever done anything unimaginable, this is twice that,' Kiley said over a radio transmitter from the top of the mountain. Officials watching the trio through a high-power telescope said the climbers waited together and then touched the monument at the summit together.

'It took me five days to get to the top of the mountain,' Rodgers said. 'Now I can do anything I want for the rest of my life.' Moss, a double amputee, said, 'It's been 13 years since I've worked with a team like this, and if everybody would work together like this, the world would be a better place.'

It was a very rough last stretch, Dunmire said, lightened by the sight of a magnificent sunset as they neared the top.

Dunmire said at the top of the summit has a monument to Amerian aviation, as well as a register.

'It's very rocky, some cactus,' he said. 'It's very open. There are no trees and there's some brush.'

He said the angle of the slope at the summit of the 8,750-foot mountain is very steep, some 35 to 45 degrees.

The three men had hoped to end their climb shortly after midday but were slowed by intense mid-afternoon temperatures that neared 100 degrees.

The trio was accompanied on the last portion of the climb by District Ranger John Jarvis.

'Their plans are to camp just off the summit tonight, and a helicopter from Fort Bliss of El Paso will evacuate them in the morning,' Dunmire said.

Five climbers began the trek, but Robert Leyes of Raleigh, N.C., was escorted down Wednesday. Mike 'Shorty' Powers of Dallas, who experienced muscle spasms, was forced to abandon the climb Monday.

The climbers will be honored at a reception and press conference at 4 p.m. MDT Saturday in the Carlsbad, N.M., Convention Center. They are expectd to receive congratulatory calls from President Reagan and Texas Gov. Bill Clements.

The hikers used specially constructed, lightweight wheelchairs on inflatable tires with deep tread. The wheelchairs have no brakes.

Powers said earlier the last part of the ascent would be 'hellish,' because of steep grades and loose boulders.

'Donnie arranges the rocks into a ramp then goes over them,' Powers said. 'One ranger told them it was incredible they got where they were (Thursday).'

The climbers are members of Dallas-based POINT -- Paraplegics on Independent Nature Trails -- and are climbing to demonstrate that the disabled can overcome their handicaps and to raise funds for the West Texas Rehabilitation Center in Abilene.

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