One can only imagine how much of a triumph it must be to climb the seven summits of Mount Everest. Thoughts of glorious, bright views come to mind. But imagine doing it blind. Eric Weihenmayer, along with his seeing-eye dog Willa, spoke at the UC Auditorium last night about his adventures.
The writer, skydiver, skier and climber extraordinaire immediately drew the crowd in with his wit, charm and humor. Along with his speech, he showed the audience slides of his travels and clips from a documentary that featured him and his efforts on Mount Everest.
Weihenmayer went blind just before his freshman year of high school. He describes the experience as “a storm descending upon me with such force.” He talked about the first day he had to be led through the halls at school and how frustrated he was in the beginning. He had to learn Braille when he wanted to read the way everyone else did. It is clear that Weihenmayer always had enough determination and thirst for adventure to complete tasks that no one thought he could.
When Weihenmayer decided to climb Mount Everest, there could not have been a better time. He was ready, willing and prepared with a team to back him up. Though it was difficult for him to ascend upon the summits, he eventually got it down to a science. He did everything in a methodical way, from the rope systems to communication protocol.
“I don’t see myself as a crazy blind guy,” Weihenmayer said. He said he knew people did not believe he had any business climbing Mount Everest, yet he had his own approach to help him accomplish such adventures as he had. He looks at something the world sees as impossible, but ignores warnings.
Weihenmayer has climbed some of the most famous mountains in the world, been featured in national magazines and on television and can now add accomplished writer to his resume.
He went many years being led, yet now he is a leader himself working with children who are blind and teaching them to climb. He believed in himself when no one else did, and thus, he believes in others.
“There will always be people who believe in you and people who don’t,” Weihenmayer said. Now that he has climbed Everest, what is next?
Weihenmayer and his wife, along with their young daughter, plan to adopt a child from Nepal. He said he will continue to climb and do the things he loves to do.
During and after Weihenmayer’s speech, the audience was still engaged and interested in what he had to say. Mitch Groothuis, a sophomore in biosystems engineering, was moved by Weihenmayer’s story.
“Erik’s refusal to let go of his dreams is an inspiring story for anybody who loves adventure,” Groothuis said. “It makes you want to never miss another opportunity to really live.” Not only do people look at his life and his experiences as an inspiration to others, but they also look to him as a model for all.