This is an ultimate feel-good story. It is about a person who refused to be limited by his handicap. Indeed, he might insist that he is not handicapped at all, and in view of all that he has achieved in his life it would be hard to argue with him.
Erik Weihenmayer was born on September 23, 1968. At the age of five he was diagnosed with juvenile retinoschisis. Soon after, he went totally blind. To be clear, Erik is not merely legally blind; he is TOTALLY blind. He sees nothing.
Even as a child, Erik refused to make concessions to his blindness. For example, as his sight deteriorated he resisted using a cane and learning braille. Instead he held on to living like a person with normal sight as long as possible.
In High School, despite his blindness,he became a champion wrestler, competing in the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championships. Imagine, he would routinely defeat opponents he couldn’t even see. Later, he tried rock climbing. Incredibly, even though he couldn’t see the rock face he became proficient at using his hands and feet to locate the proper “holds.” He was a “natural.” He graduated from Boston College with a double major in English and Communications. He became a school teacher and wrestling coach.
But, Erik was not satisfied. He wanted more. So, again, refusing to acknowledge his physical limitations he began to challenge himself. Below please find some highlights of his achievements:
a. He started mountain climbing in 1995. His first conquest was Mt. McKinley. Since then, he has scaled many other noteworthy mountain peaks, including El Capitan in Yosemite, Carstensz Pyramid in New Guinea, and the biggie, Mt. Everest, the only blind person to have done so. He has completed the famous Seven Summits, again, the only blind climber to have done so.
b. He has developed into an athlete, adventurer, author, activist and motivational speaker.
c. He was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story.
d. He is the author of “Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man’s Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye Can See”and “The Adversity Advantage, Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness.”
e. In 2005 he co-founded “No Barriers USA,” which assists and encourages those with special challenges to live more active and meaningful lives. The organization’s motto is “What’s Within You Is Stronger Than What’s In Your Way!” Injured soldiers are a major focus of the organization.
f. In 2011, his 3-person team competed on ABC’s Expedition Impossible, a race across the deserts and mountains of Morocco, finishing second.
g. He has completed the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, at elevations above 10,000 feet, and Primal Quest, an adventure race over 460 miles with 60,000 feet of elevation gains.
Erik’s accomplishments speak for themselves. They stand as an inspiration not only to other special needs individuals, but to all of us.