Paraplegics circumnavigate Lake Tahoe’s winter waters |

Paraplegics circumnavigate Lake Tahoe’s winter waters

Glass-like conditions made Lake Tahoe smooth paddling for Wellman and Arnow.
Courtesy photo |

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Mark Wellman, of Truckee and Jon Arnow, of Reno, Nev. departed the Tahoe City Boat Ramp at 7 a.m.

Wellman was the first paraplegic to ascend El Captain and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, with climber Mike Corbett.

Arnow was paralyzed in a skiing accident 12 years ago, and completed a three-day, Yosemite National Park-based Trans Sierra Ski Crossing on sit skis with Mark Wellman.

The two paraplegic kayakers loaded camping gear and supplies meticulously into sea kayaks, greatly anticipating the three-day paddle around the pristine shore line of Lake Tahoe.

“When I heard that Mark and Jon were making plans to take on this adventure, on the water, in winter, I couldn’t help but think maybe being paralyzed wasn’t the only injury Mark had,” said Charles Albright, a local paddle guru who donates time to get disabled individuals outdoors.

“This is seriously crazy stuff,” he continued. “When they completed the paddle, it reminded me of the inner powers we all have, and also the involved teamwork it takes to make a project become successful.”

The first day was a 24-mile paddle, finishing at 2:30 p.m. to camp on the East Shore. After enjoying the last warm sun on the beach, eating hot soup over the camp stove and Clif Bars, the two hit their sleeping bags at 4:30 p.m.

JAN. 1, 1014, NEW YEAR’S DAY

In a black star-lit sky, Mark and Jon, after scraping ice off their sleeping bags, brewed up hot chocolate and prepared for a 6:15 a.m. departure at nautical dawn. Mark without his wheelchair, and Jon with his forearm crutches broke down camp and reloaded equipment and supplies. The two kayakers round Dead Man’s Point and Cave Rock, where they saw one lonely fishing boat. The M.S. Dixie was moored quietly in the freezing, glassy water at Zephyr Cove. Edgewood Golf Course’s greens were frozen with snow. They passed a sail boat near Tahoe Keys, slower than the kayak’s man-powered paddle, which reminded them to appreciate calm, glassy conditions. After passing Camp Richardson, Mark and Jon paddled on to shore at Emerald Bay, completing a 26-mile day at 3:30 p.m., with a quick dinner and into sleeping bags by 4:30 p.m.

JAN. 2, 2014

A freezing 6 a.m. departure, using head lamps in the 25-degree darkness began their final day. They padded around Fannette Island, a 150’ granite uprising and home to Mrs. Vikingsholm’s famous Tea House. The Rubicon Cliffs at dawn shimmered sunrise along the towering, sheer rock cliffs. A bald eagle perched in a dead Ponderosa snag, and near Obexer’s Marina, the two noticed the sparse snow on Homewood’s slopes.

Exuberated, sore, and tired, Mark and Jon completed the three-day, 72-mile paddle of Lake Tahoe, ending in Tahoe City by 2 p.m. They were never were 100 yards from the shoreline, making it an official circumnavigation.


Jon Arnow is a 25-year Reno, Nev., resident, who was paralyzed in a skiing accident at Alpine Meadows 12 years ago. He is a retired E.N.T. physician and avid outdoor adventurer. Jon currently works with the State of Nevada, when not skiing off piste, hand cycling or trekking the Sierra Nevada. In 2010, Jon completed a three-day Trans Sierra Ski Crossing through Yosemite National Park, with Mark Wellman, using custom sit-skis with no able-bodied assistance.


Mark Wellman, is a 22-year Truckee resident and paraplegic of 31 years, made history by becoming the first paraplegic to ascend El Captain and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, with legendary climber Mike Corbett. Mark co-owns No Limits, where he provides custom-made climbing equipment and seminars for people with disabilities to organizations and rehab hospitals. Wellman is an author, speaker and avid outdoor adventurer. For more information about No Limits, email


Paddle guru who donates time and effort to broaden outdoor experience for disabled individuals including the Mark Wellman Adventure Day put on by the City of Sparks. Charles, an ambulatory outdoorsman himself, completed the same paddle on Lake Tahoe in November, taking three days.

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.