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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who is Erik Weihenmayer?

Who is Erik Weihenmayer?   The handicap world knows Erik Weihenmayer as the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001. He also completed the Seven Summits in September 2002. His story was covered in a Time article in June 2001 titled Blind to Failure. He is the author of Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye can See, his autobiography.

Erik is an acrobatic skydiver, long distance biker, marathon runner, skier, mountaineer, ice climber, and rock climber. He is a friend of Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg, the co-founders of Braille Without Borders, whom he visited in Tibet to climb with them and teenagers from the school for the blind. A documentary film based on the project, Blindsight, was released in 2006. Another documentary, Fellowship of the Andes, was produced by Dutch filmmaker Bernd Out. The film shows how Erik inspires a team of blind and visually-impaired students on their mountain trek across the Andes in June 2006.[1] In addition, Erik is an active speaker on the lecture circuit. He is represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau.
Besides his admirable achievements Weihenmayer gained worldwide notoriety due to a slip-up by Cynthia Izaguirre (then a news anchor at KOAT-TV), who introduced him after climbing Mount Everest as "Erik Weihenmayer, who has climbed the highest mountain in the world - Mt Everest. But" (she paused dramatically) ". . . he's gay! I mean he's gay, excuse me, he's blind.". The clip has become a well known viral video on the Internet, and Weihenmayer has even linked to what he now refers to as "my gay clip" from his own website.

Biography and list of achievements

Erik was born on September 23, 1968,  with a disease called retinoschisis and became totally blind by the age of 13.
In 1987, he graduated from Weston High School in Connecticut. As the school’s wrestling captain, he represented the state in National Freestyle Wrestling Championships.
In 1991, he graduated from Boston College. In the same year, he trekked in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan.
In 1993, he received a master’s degree in Middle School Education from Lesley College. In the same year, he crossed the Batura Glacier in the Karakoram Mountains of Northern Pakistan. The same year he joined the staff at Phoenix Country Day School as an instructor.
In 1995, Erik reached the 20,320’ summit of Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak, sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind. His triumph was featured on Today with Katie Couric and the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.
In 1996, he carried the Olympic Torch through Phoenix and was selected for the first annual Distinguished Arizonan Award by the Governors Council. He was also inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and received its first Medal of Courage.
In 1997, he climbed his second continental summit, Kilimanjaro. He married at the height of 13,000’. Erik and his wife Ellen live outside of Denver, Colorado, United States.
In 1998, he rode a tandem bike from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City with his father, a Vietnam veteran.
In 1999, he attempted Argentina's Mount Aconcagua. Poor weather conditions forced his team to turn around just short of the summit. A subsequent attempt on a separate trip was successful.
In 2001, he climbed Mt. Everest.
In 2004, he led an expedition in Tibet called Climbing Blind project, including blind teens from the Braille Without Borders school for blind at Lhasa, Tibet.
In 2006, helped to lead Global Explorers sponsored expedition, Leading the Way, to Peru. The expedition film, Fellowship of the Andes, premiered in New York City 28th Oct 2006.
In 2007, was the speaker at Lehigh University's spring commencement ceremony on May 21.
In 2009, he was a speaker at the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference on January 19.
In 2009, he was a speaker at the Babson College spring commencement ceremony on May 16 where he was also awarded a PhD in Humane Letters.


  • Receives Honorary Doctorate Degree on 16 May 2009 from the FW Olin School of Business at the Babson College MA


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