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Home / IT News / How One Designer Created a Prosthetic Leg for Climbers

It was inspired by mountain goats.

How One Designer Created a Prosthetic Leg for Climbers

Inspired by mountain goats and a desire to help people, NY-based industrial designer Kai Lin formed an unlikely alliance with an adaptive climber—Arc’teryx athlete Craig DeMartino.

With empathy, efficiency, and a willingness to adapt, the pair created a holy grail for adaptive rock climbers: A badass prosthetic foot that doesn’t just level the playing field, but dishes—if not super powers—a real sense of empowerment.

After surviving a 110-foot fall that probably should have killed him, DeMartino’s new reality looked like a fused neck and spine, a junky ankle, and a missing right leg. Though he redesigned his life and mindset, DeMartino is not an engineer, so he relied on other technical people to invent things. But no one is investing resources in improving prosthetic climbing limbs.

In 2014, Lin’s mountain goat-inspired prosthetic leg, KLIPPA (Swedish for “cliff”), was a US national finalist for the James Dyson Award. He was introduced to DeMartino by some filmmakers, made headlines, and did interviews, but the project languished. He needed money to build a functional prototype and collaborators to test it, and after finishing school, he was busy working his day job as an industrial designer.

Still, the feedback he was getting from adaptive climbers, family members, and prosthetists kept him tinkering with the design—he knew it could make a huge difference in the lives of a small group of under-served people.

Researching the prosthetic even inspired him to try climbing. “I think looking at this problem with a unique set of eyes allowed me to come up with a design that a professional rock climber might not have.”

It makes Lin smile to think back five years to when he first started this project. Connecting the dots between mountain goats, prosthetic limbs, and amputee rock climbers came out of nowhere. “Little did I know that the idea would turn into years of research and development and so many opportunities,” he said. “I can design specific things that will make people’s lives better through the objects they interact with on a daily basis. That’s what I’m good at. And that’s something I can do.”

Arc’teryx is a group of designers, perfectionists, makers, and outdoor-lovers. In these stories, we celebrate people leaning into hard problems, applying design to create possibility. Now is the time to think beyond the product and make problem-solving contagious. Design is our way forward. Make it yours.

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