An evening with adventurer Warren Macdonald

“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.” 

The above quote can be attributed to Henry Ford but applies to those throughout history who have overcome their greatest trials to achieve great success. Warren Macdonald is one of these people, and embodies Ford’s words with his mind-set and ability to inspire others. 

Macdonald has overcome much in his life. An avid adventurer and environmentalist, in 1997 he undertook a backpacking trip to the remote Australian island of Hinchinbrook and attempted to scale the islands highest peak. During the ascent, a rock fall left him pinned under a 1-ton boulder for two days while his new climbing companion Geert van Keulen rushed to get help. The event left him with both legs amputated at mid-thigh. 

Despite the physical and psychological effects of such a life-changing event, Macdonald quickly returned to his active and inspiring ways, climbing Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain using a modified wheelchair just 10 months later, and he has not stopped since.  

Macdonald said the accident “has taught me two things, really. That we can handle more than we think we can. And that how we see the world, how we perceive it, has a huge impact on what we get in life, and out of life.”  

It is this attitude, and people’s desire to learn from him, that has led to his becoming an inspirational keynote speaker, with an appearance scheduled at Camana Bay on May 29. 

“I started speaking a year or so after my accident when people began asking if I could share my story of climbing Cradle Mountain,” he said. “At first I didn’t really get it, that others could benefit; I figured that’s just what you do; you get back up again. It took me a while to recognize the value of others seeing their own struggles within my story.”  

Macdonald’s success has led to appearances at events across the world, and at a variety of corporations, “basically anyone who is struggling with change.” 

His intention in his speaking is to change the way people see the world.  

“My aim is to turn a light on in people’s minds that says ‘Hey, I’ve never thought of it that way’ or ‘I’ve been stuck because I couldn’t see a way out.’” 

His presentation at Camana Bay will follow this theme, and he will also discuss the importance of protecting our environment. 

In addition, Macdonald and his partner Margo Talbot, also a writer, climber and speaker, will host a dive trip for visitors to Cayman, with accommodation and diving packages for divers and non-divers.  

“I believe we learn faster when we’re taken outside of our comfort zone. It seemed like a natural extension to what I do to bring a group of people over that want what I call a mini-adventure,” Macdonald explained.

“Scuba diving can be challenging for a lot of people, and I figured that having the opportunity to dive with a guy with no legs would hopefully take some of that anxiety away.” 

Macdonald’s book, “A Test of Will: One Man’s Extraordinary Story of Survival,” which he will be signing at Books & Books, was started in an attempt to retain the memory of the events on Hinchinbrook.  

“Having the story go out into the world was a bizarre experience because all of a sudden I would meet people who knew everything about me, while I knew nothing about them …” said Macdonald.  

“A Test of Will” was first published in 1999 in Australia, then in the U.S. and Canada in 2005. “[The book] starts with a huge rock falling into my lap and finishes on top of another mountain 10 months later. Most people say that it gives them hope, that they can overcome the obstacles that come up in their own lives.” 

Macdonald foresees more books in his future, and he also foresees more adventure, accomplishing new feats. 

“I’d love to do a long road trip on a motorbike, that’s one … and more sailing … and kayaking … and maybe some paragliding …” In his immediate future, however, aside from the diving trip, less intensive plans are afoot during his Cayman visit.  

“My partner Margo hasn’t been out to the sandbar yet, so we hope to do that, and then I’m on a mission to find out if Chicken! Chicken! really is the best chicken on the island,” he joked. 

The event starts at 6 p.m. with a free presentation and book signing at Regal Cinemas. Issued tickets will be necessary for this due to limited seating. A dinner will follow at Abacus from 8-9:30 p.m., and tickets are $100. Proceeds help the Cayman Magic Reef Recovery Project.  

Dinner tickets, which include a pass to the presentation and book signing, are available for cash purchase from the CITA offices.

Complimentary passes to the presentation and book signing portion of the evening only are available at the Discovery Centre in Camana Bay. 

Macdonald has reached the summit of Kilimanjaro and has ascended America’s tallest cliff face, El Capitan.


Macdonald began writing his book so that he would not forget aspects of his experience.


Macdonald’s accident has not held him back from climbing.


Macdonald now inspires others with his book and motivational speaking.