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Author Topic: Blind climber nears milestone  (Read 4968 times)


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Blind climber nears milestone
« on: Sep 4 2002, 04:00 »

Thu Aug 29, 9:13 AM ET
Cristina Silva USA TODAY
There's a place in Russia, nearly 18,520 feet up, where blizzard winds exceed 100 mph, a place where hidden crevasses and avalanches make the terrain nearly impossible to navigate. The temperature hovers well below zero, and the fog is so dense no light is visible.

Imagine a six-day summit of this place, Mount Elbrus.
Imagine topping off the trip by skiing 8,000 feet down the icy side of the mountain.

Now, imagine doing all of this with your eyes closed.

Blind climber Erik Weihenmayer, 34, who climbed Europe's highest peak this summer, makes what seems impossible possible.

He leaves Sunday for his next challenge in Australia, where he plans to climb 7,316-foot Mount Kosciuszko, located between Melbourne and Sydney, on Sept. 5.
Records are sketchy, but it's believed he would be the first blind climber to complete a summit of the tallest peak on each of the seven continents. The Seven Summits, as the feat is known, has been accomplished by an estimated 100 climbers, including 30 Americans.

Weihenmayer, blinded at 13 by retinoschisis, climbs with the help of tracking poles and teammates.

''Your hands and feet become your eyes,'' says Weihenmayer, who began climbing at 16. ''I have the skills, and when people climb with me, it breaks people's stereotypes.''

Breaking stereotypes is something Weihenmayer has been doing all his life.

A lifelong wrestler, he was the first recipient of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's Medal of Courage and the first blind person to trek Peru's 60-mile Inca Trail. He's also an avid biker, runner, one of four blind skydivers and one of twelve blind certified open-water scuba divers in the USA.

He was the first blind person to scale the world's tallest mountain, Everest. A few years earlier, in 1997, Weihenmayer married fellow climber Ellen Reeve in a ceremony atop Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.

''I'll continue to climb as long as I can,'' Weihenmayer says. ''There are a lot of climbs out there.''
"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
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