It was one of those "you know you live in Colorado when..." moments. My family and I had just moved to a small town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We visited a small church on Lookout Mountain overlooking the continental divide. The time came when people prayed aloud and we heard, "... and please keep my husband safe. He's climbing Mount Everest and might summit this week if the weather holds out. Please help the whole team, especially Erik, who is blind. Amen."
Blind? Mt. Everest? You've got to be kidding.
I had a chance to meet Erik Weihenmayer and see his slide show last month. Here's a guy who won't let convention, common sense or genuine concern discourage him. John Krakauer wrote to Erik, ""I am not at all enthusiastic about your trip to Everest next spring," he wrote. "It's not that I doubt you have what it takes to reach the summit.... It's just that I don't think you can get to the top of that particular hill without subjecting yourself to horrendous risk, the same horrendous risk all Everest climbers face, and then some." Mountaineer Ed Viesturs and others also called to talk Erik out of the trip. On May 25, 2001 Erik and his entire climbing team summited Everest - the first and only blind climber to reach the world's tallest peak.
Not only has Erik climbed Everest, but he can claim the elusive "Seven Summits" - the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.
What struck me about Erik was his attitude. I expected him to be egotistical, arrogant and defiant. Maybe even careless. Instead, I found him to be highly self-aware, a fast learner, humble, and very adaptable. He learned to climb as a child, and knows his boundaries and how to work around them. He recognizes that his accomplishments are not only the result of individual skill and strength, but equally the collaboration of a team.