In 1987, descending from the summit of Kangchenjunga, his first of the worlds five tallest peaks, he suffered crippling frostbite and later had the front of both feet amputated. He was advised to get a desk job, and that his climbing days were definitely over. He succumbed to the incessant pain and sought refuge in painkillers. He became addicted. For two years Michael withdrew from the world and became yet another victim of the wrath of the big mountains, never feeling further from his dream – to climb Mt Everest.
But Michael is not a quitter, and after enough time feeling sorry for himself and believing others about his condition, he decided that he would fulfil that dream. Slowly, ever so slowly, he trained himself to walk again. Then to run. A year later he was cycling and ready to start climbing again. First, small rock cliffs in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia, then back to where he belonged, in the big Himalayan mountains.
He climbed Cho Oyu in 1990. In autumn 1991, an avalanche swept him 900 metres down the Lhotse face of Everest and once again, miraculously, he survived. In 1993, Michael returned to the Himalayas in peak fitness and climbed Everest, then in 1994, K2. In 1995, the unknown Brisbane plumber climbed Lhotse, becoming the fourth person in the world to climb the worlds four highest mountains. More men had walked on the moon!
In 1996 Michael was one of the few famous big mountain climbers to survive yet another Mt Everest disaster. Of the six climbers from his team who reached the summit, only he and American Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air, survived.
On the descent, in cruel and violent conditions, he stumbled across another American, Beck Weathers, who was now totally blind. Placing his own life in extreme danger, Michael tethered Beck to his harness and guided and lowered him down some of the most dangerous sections of the mountain. The storm killed half the team. Beck survived, but with crippling injuries to his hands and face. Michael returned home, shattered and disillusioned. It would be three years before the big mountains lured him back, and he at last summited the last of the big five, Makalu, in 1999 at age 40.
Michael is one of Australias most sought after keynote speakers. He has spoken to soldiers going off to war, athletes struggling to come back from serious injury, professional people keen to get a little closer to the truth of no pain, no gain, and ordinary folk who just love to sit and listen to one of Australias most amazing human endeavour stories. Michael Grooms autobiography Sheer Will is an incredible read; his personal presentation, accompanied with impossibly beautiful visuals, is to see the earth the way it was meant to be seen, in its purest and rawest form.