So who exactly is Erik Weihenmayer?
Certainly an extreme sportsman. Also an extremely competent sportsman with many extreme accomplishments under his belt. Also he is a blind sportsman.
He is the only blind person to have climbed the “Seven Summits,” the tallest peak on every continent. He has scaled the 3000 foot rock face of El Capitan, skied down the tallest peak in Europe, and guided Tibetan blind teenagers to 21,500 feet on the north side of Mt. Everest. He has scaled Polar Circus, a 3000-foot ice waterfall in The Canadian Rockies; and conquered a difficult and rarely climbed rock face on 17,000-foot Mt. Kenya. Erik is also a prolific speaker and author of two books.
He was born with a disease called retinoschisis and became totally blind by the age of 13.
Despite losing his vision he has become an accomplished mountain climber, paraglider, and skier, who has never let his blindness interfere with his passion for an exhilarating and fulfilling life. Erik’s feats have earned him an ESPY award, recognition by Time Magazine for one of the greatest sporting achievements of 2001, induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, an ARETE Award for the superlative athletic performance of the year, the Helen Keller Lifetime Achievement award, Nike’s Casey Martin Award, and the Freedom Foundation’s Free Spirit Award. He has also carried the Olympic Torch for both the Summer and Winter Games.
In July 2008 the Real Deal Inclusive Sports Adventure brought the world’s first integrated adventure race to the banks of the Colorado river – integrated meaning 10 teams of 5 athletes per team, 3able-bodied and 2 disabled working together whilst mountain biking, rafting, climbing, swimming and rappelling.
In September, 2003, Erik joined 320 athletes from 17 countries to compete in the Primal Quest, the richest and toughest multi-sport adventure race in the world: 457 miles through the Sierra Nevada’s, nine days, sixty thousand feet of elevation gain, and no time-outs. Averaging only two hours of sleep a night, Erik and his team surged past the finish line on Lake Tahoe, becoming one of the 42 teams to cross the finish line out of the 80 teams that began.
“There’s a debate going on about how to get disabled people into the outdoors. Do you make the outdoors more accessible to them by paving over trails, or do you adapt yourself to the environment?” Weihenmayer said. “This race sort of shows that you can adapt yourself to the environment. I can’t think of a better way to do it.”
The idea was born from Weihenmayer’s experiences during the 2003 Primal Quest race in the Sierra Nevadas. Whilst people were questioning why Weihenmayer was in the event, his team went on to successfully complete the race.
“The rumor was that we wouldn’t make it past the first day, and we beat 40 able-bodied teams,” he said. “So that was in the back of my mind, that traditionally there is this idea that disabled people can’t take part in an adventure race because it’s too rugged, it’s too risky, it’s too difficult………”
Erik’s speaking career has taken him around the world, from Hong Kong to Switzerland, from Thailand to the 2005 APEC Summit in Chile. He speaks to audiences on harnessing the power of adversity, the importance of a “rope team,” and the daily struggle to pursue your dreams. Clearly, Erik’s accomplishments show that one does not have to have perfect eyesight to have extraordinary vision.
I am sure you will enjoy listening to this inspirational video of an interview between Andy Andrews and Erik Weihenmayer. Thank you to AndyAndrewsdotcom for sharing it with us.