Todd Huston understands the value of perseverance.

Last year the 33-year-old South Tulsan scaled the highest peaks in

all 50 states in record time -- and with only one leg.

Accompanied by a friend, Huston attained the highest elevations in

all 50 states in 66 days, 22 hours and 47 minutes, shattering the

world record of 101 days set by a two-legged mountain climber.

Since that accomplishment, Huston has become an overnight

celebrity. He has appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN and has been

covered in newspapers such as The Los Angeles Times, The Washington

Post and The Wall Street Journal.

In January Huston spoke to an international television audience

when he was Robert Schuller's guest at The Crystal Cathedral. In

April he will be the subject of a feature article in `Sports Illustrated.`

Huston is also in demand as a motivational speaker, taking his

message of triumph over adversity to schools, churches and

businesses all across the country.

Leaving no mountain unclimbed, he recently co-authored `More than

Mountains,` an autobiography of his adventures in mountain climbing.

The book was released in January and currently is available

locally at Novel Idea bookstores.

When Huston was 14, he was involved in a boating accident at Lake

Tenkiller that nearly killed him and cost him the use of his right

leg. Huston was swimming in the lake when his legs got caught in

the propellers of a boat.

`I actually died twice, once in the emergency room and once on the

operating table,` Huston said. `Because I lost so much blood, my

heart had stopped.`

The accident severely damaged Huston's sciatic nerve, resulting in

paralysis of his right leg below the knee. He also had lost a lot

of muscle tissue.

Doctors told Huston's parents Huston probably would never walk

again. He proved them wrong, but the absence of feeling in his leg

resulted in a variety of health complications throughout the next

few years.

`I could step on a nail and not even know it,` he said. `And that

would literally happen sometimes. I'd pull my shoe or boot off and

there would be blood everywhere.`

Huston frequently developed sores and infections because of his

leg injury until, at 21, he decided to have it amputated below the knee.

`That took care of all the paralyzed part of my leg,` he said. `No

more sores, no more blisters, no more infections. I had to choose

to have a life and a lifestyle instead of a leg.`

With the help of a bulky and uncomfortable artificial limb, Huston

graduated from the University of Tulsa with a bachelor's degree in

business and moved to Balboa Island in Orange County, Calif.

In California he earned a master's degree in clinical psychology

and worked with young people in clinics throughout the Southern

California area. While there, he met and married a woman from New

Zealand who left him after two years of marriage.

`When her immigration status changed and she became a legal

resident of the United States, I came home one night after church

and she had disappeared,` he said.

Although crushed by this development, Huston emerged from his

despair with a new sense of purpose. After prayer and thoughtful

consideration, he decided to utilize his counseling skills to help


Before long, he was counseling amputees and speaking to groups of

physicians on how to best meet the needs of their amputee patients.

It was while doing this work that Huston learned about the 50

Peaks Project. The independent promoter of this project was trying

to find five disabled individuals who would climb the highest

elevations in all 50 states. Huston knew nothing about mountain

climbing, but the idea interested him.

`Before I was injured I had been an Eagle Scout, so I thought,

'Maybe I'd like to do it,'` he said. `So, I thought about it and

then, right at the deadline, I submitted my application. I prayed

about it and said, `God, if you want me to go I'll go, but if you

don't that's fine with me because these are some serious mountains.`

Huston received a letter saying he had been chosen as one of the

five people for the project. Over the next year, he trained

tirelessly in preparation for the climbs.

Assisting him was Fred Xalokar, a professional mountain climber

and an old schoolmate of Huston's from Memorial High School.

The first mountain climb was scheduled to get under way in April

1994, but one month before departure, funding for the project fell

through. Never one to give up, Huston found a way to continue the

project on his own.

`I said, 'Look, I'll just go get my own money and I'll do it

myself,'` he said. `I was able to raise about $12,000 in a few


Whit Rambach, a friend, accompanied Huston on the climbs. Xalokar

also joined him on several of the climbs.

The project was scheduled to begin with Hawaii and end atop Mount

McKinley in Alaska. Unfortunately, more than halfway through the

project, Huston learned that the original schedule had been planned

poorly and his group had to start over again.

`They said start in April, so I went ahead and started in April,`

he said. `All of a sudden it became very apparent to me that the

Northeast was really in bad shape. We couldn't even get into some

of the parks to go climb them, and the mountains in the Western

states were full of snow. We had started climbing way too early.

`So, I went and climbed Mount McKinley after doing 33 states and

started the clock over again on June 1 at 5:10 P.M. At that point

we hurried down Mount McKinley, went back and re-did all those

states, and then picked up the ones in the Northeast.`

Sixty-six days later Huston completed his quest by reaching the

13,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest mountain.

In January, Huston left California to return to Tulsa, where he

now shares a South Tulsa office with his father, Bill Huston,

president of Huston Lumber Sales. Through his newly established

business, Huston Resources, Huston coordinates his many speaking

and promotional engagements across the country and throughout the


Last week he spoke at events in Salt Lake City, Sun Valley, Idaho,

and New Orleans. Huston said he is happy to be back in Oklahoma.

`My family is here, and I realized there were a lot of economic

advantages to living in Tulsa,` he said. `One, the cost of living

is much cheaper than in California -- and also the cost of

business. Oklahoma is much friendlier to do business in than


`Tulsa is also more centrally located. I do so much traveling that

every time I do something east of the Rockies it's a full day, then

a full day to get back. It's not good time management to have to

spend so much time flying from one end of the country to another.`

In March, Huston will travel to Australia for several speaking

engagements. While there, he plans to climb the country's tallest

mountain, Mount Koscioski, to kick off his world mountain-climbing


His plans are to climb the highest mountain in every country in

the world. Unlike the 50 Peaks project, he will not attempt to

break any world time records accomplishing this task. Huston also

has a new woman in his life, a childhood friend he ran into at


Huston attributes his success to an inner fortitude and

determination that comes from his faith in God.

`With psychology you can change people's environment, but unless

they have something spiritual, a faith in God and a direction that

comes from a higher source, it's kind of like you have the whole

formula, but you're missing that one little piece and it all

crumbles,` he said.

`It may work to a certain point and then it crumbles, and it may

seem as if it's working but it doesn't. There is no solid ground to


`It's like going three quarters of the way up the mountain and

saying, 'We're at the top.' You don't get the feeling of being on

the summit until you are standing there.`