WWF-Canada Blog:

You’ll question your own limits after reading this man’s CN Tower climb story

When Julian Backhouse ascends the CN Tower in April, he’ll send his wheelchair up the elevator and climb the 1,776 steps to the top.

The 63-year-old grandfather of four from Mississauga, Ont., has Wilson’s Disease, a rare genetic disorder that affects his physical strength and coordination. Despite using a wheelchair to get around most of the time, he scaled the tower for the first time last year and raised more than $1,000 as part of WWF’s CN Tower Climb for Nature. This year, his goal is to raise $2,000 in donations.

Here’s how he’ll do it, and why.

Sign up here to do it too.

Julian Backhouse, 63, uses a wheelchair, but aims to climb all 1,776 steps to reach the top in WWF's CN Tower Climb for Nature, April 16-17, 2016. © Julian Backhouse

Julian Backhouse, 63, uses a wheelchair, but aims to climb all 1,776 steps to reach the top in WWF’s CN Tower Climb for Nature, April 16-17, 2016. © Julian Backhouse

WWF: How are you able to climb unassisted?

J.B.: When I tell people I climbed the CN Tower, they ask: “Why do you need a wheelchair then?” I am still trying to shake the effects of Wilson’s disease, which had me bedridden and in and out of hospital, rehab and nursing home care from 2008 to 2010. Now I shuffle when I walk and find flat land more difficult. I feel like my feet are glued to the ground and I tend to rush and trip up a lot. But walking up stairs for some reason seems to trigger my movement.

WWF: What is the biggest challenge?

J.B.: I honestly thought I was going to be in there for four hours last year. That was my biggest fear. There was a mental barrier I had to break through. It was like climbing Mount Everest. But I am competitive. I used to be very athletic so that is why this climb is perfect for me. It’s something I can do that is physical. But the climb now, with the effects of Wilson’s Disease, is very humbling for me.

WWF: How did you train?

J.B.: I live in a condo with 10 flights of stairs. Going up 10 times is equal to climbing the CN Tower. I started training three months before and would go up twice a day, three times a week. Closer to the event, I’d go up five times.

WWF: What surprised you about the climb?

J.B.: I was prepared to take a flashlight because I thought I would be in there all day. But it was a lot easier than I thought. There is a landing at every flight of stairs. So every 12 steps you can take a rest, go to the side and let people pass. I have long arms so I used the rails to help and people would pass under my arms. Last year it took me 1 hour 16 minutes.

WWF: Why climb for WWF?

J.B.: WWF makes the event accessible to everyone and that is what convinced me. Because I raised $1,000 and reached Platinum Panda status, they really took care of me. And I like how they take care of the environment for the long term. It’s a good feeling doing something positive for the world.


Inspired by Julian? Join him at this year’s CN Tower Climb for Nature! As a special bonus, all climbers will receive a free ticket to the Green Living Show.

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