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Central Coast man hikes Half Dome with prosthetic leg

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Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 10, 2022

Bill Malzhan’s limitations have not stopped him from accomplishing his goal of hiking Half Dome.

The Paso Robles resident had his life changed drastically when he was 19 years old.

“In 1971, I was in the Marine Corps, but I was run over by a drunk driver, got caught between the bumpers of two cars and smashed my leg off. I ended up becoming an amputee in October of 1971,” Malzhan explained.

Malzhan would pick himself up following the accident, working in pipe welding for 40 years and in the oil refineries for eight years, all with a wooden leg.

His older son, Zak, is now a certified prosthetist.

“I used to tinker with my dad’s legs when I was a kid and would get in trouble if I didn’t know how to put it back together. Now I get paid to do it,” said Zak Malzhan.

Zak custom-made a computerized prosthetic, changing Bill’s outlook on retirement.

“I retired and decided I should do something besides hanging out,” Bill said.

After watching Huell Howser of “California’s Gold” climb Half Dome at Yosemite, Bill decided to do the same.

“When I’ve made up my mind to do something, I do my best to do it,” he said.

Bill’s youngest son, Jeremiah, agreed to train with him for the hike.

“My father is my hero because every day he showed the dedication and drive to get up, go to work, and be there for us,” said Jeremiah Malzhan. “To simulate, you have to be able to hike up and down Bishop Peak three times.”

“In 2021, I felt I was in good enough shape to climb Half Dome,” Bill said.

In three days, the two climbed all 24 miles.

“I’m glad I did it and I only fell down about four times on the hike and that was more from my feet slipping out from under me falling down,” Bill said.

“When he said he was going to do it, I had no doubt in my mind he was going to do it,” Zak said.

“Every time that my father passed another climber that was complaining or having a difficult time, everybody stopped and had the same message, 'I can’t complain anymore. Look at what he is doing,'” Jeremiah recalled.

“Just get up and do your job, and both of my sons get up and do their job,” Bill said.

Bill Malzhan is currently 69 years old and says he is planning to prepare to train once again to hike Half Dome with his son a second time.

The Malzhans say they are eyeing a trip to hike Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States and Sierra Nevada with an elevation of 14,505 feet.