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Double-amputee climber Mandy Horvath opens up about arrest, addiction

Double-amputee climber Mandy Horvath opens up about arrest, addiction
Posted at 10:29 PM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2021-05-26 16:50:01-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – Her story inspired countless people across the globe.  The double-amputee who summited not only the Manitou Incline, but also Pikes Peak.  All by scooting up the hill on her behind.  The grueling trek up the Incline took hours, Pikes Peak, days.  But she was hiding a secret the whole time.  A secret revealed in an embarrassing arrest.  In an exclusive interview with News 5’s Zach Thaxton, Mandy Horvath comes clean for the first time about what happened and what’s next for her future.

Mandy Horvath went from obscurity to viral sensation virtually overnight.  She even flew to New York City for an interview on The Today Show. But she did it all while under the influence.  Now, she’s on a new mission — permanent sobriety.

“My butt has been all over it, so I’m just going to claim it as mine,” Horvath said of Pikes Peak.  The images are unforgettable — the 25-year-old college student scooting up the Incline without legs.  It was inspirational to millions across the globe, with most wondering how in the world she was able to do it.  “Above all else, your mental capacity is going to be what pushes you forward,” Horvath said.

RELATED: Colorado’s bionic woman conquers the Manitou Incline with no legs

Her subsequent summiting of Pikes Peak thrust her further into the media spotlight, with an adoring and inspired public showering her with attention.  It was an enticing sensation, which made it difficult to let go of once the attention began to fade.  “If you’re by yourself, when everybody is like, ‘Hey! Let me buy you a drink. I think you’re incredible!’ I think I was chasing that feeling,” Horvath said.

In August, after a night out at a northeast Colorado Springs bar, Horvath was arrested for drunk driving.  Amid officers’ and medics’ attempts to arrest her, Horvath says she began attempting suicide.  “I began striking my head on the pavement,” she said. Amid the struggle, an EMT was struck in the face by Horvath’s open left hand. “Had it not been for that EMT trying o restrain me from trying to harm myself in my alcohol-induced psychosis, I wouldn’t be here,” Horvath said.

Once again, Horvath was the subject of viral media attention, only this time, it was her mug shot being shown on TV and online, not her inspirational accomplishments.  The photo dramatically showed the scratches and bruises on her face from her self-described slamming of her head into the pavement.

Immediately, Horvath had to come to grips with the fact she was a severe alcoholic.  “I couldn’t stop drinking even if I wanted to,” she said.  “I would wake up and my hands would shake violently.  My head would pound.  I’d be vomiting.”

Horvath admits she was not sober during her inspirational climbs.  “I was self-medicating so heavily that my partner, Daniel Pond, had to go hang a bear bag full of wine so that I did not go through withdrawals on that mountain,” she says of the Pikes Peak ascent.  She says she drank shooters before her climb up the Incline.

“After being arrested in August, I had to put myself in a hospital for three days to go through withdrawals,” Horvath said. “That’s how badly my body was addicted.”  She then voluntarily entered inpatient rehab.

“I’ve stayed sober of my own accord for seven months now,” Horvath said.  “I’m staying in my lane, I’ve completed almost 300 hours of community service, I’ve done all my classes, I’m in therapy.  All I’m looking to do is prepare for my future.”

Horvath says that future is a sober one, with even more lofty ambitions.  She says she plans to summit the Incline on the anniversary of her initial climb.  She also plans to butt-scoot to the top of Pikes Peak once again, only this time beginning from The Crags side.  But that’s not all.  “It’s not a matter of if I can, it’s a matter of when: I’ll be going to climb Kilimanjaro,” she said.  “I’m not giving up on that.”

And now she finds herself in a new role: inspiring others struggling with addiction that recovery is possible.  Just as possible as a double-amputee summiting Pikes Peak.

RELATED: Double-amputee outdoes herself and conquers Pikes Peak