Blind climber takes on trip to top Everest


MT. EVEREST, Nepal – Erik Weihenmayer will make history as he leaves Base Camp in his quest to become the first blind person to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest.

By mid-May, Weihenmayer hopes to stand on top of the world at 29,035-feet. The National Federation of the Blind is the sponsor of this expedition.

And Aventis Pharmaceuticals is working with Erik, a seasonal allergy sufferer, to create a video documentary of this trek.

“As a believer in the National Federation of the Blind’s philosophy, I don’t think of my blindness as a limitation, and I haven’t let it prevent me from achieving my goals,” said Weihenmayer. “The members of the federation are climbing with me in spirit, so this expedition is a great example of our principle that people don’t have to let physical challenges hold them back from accomplishing great things. I’m not making history just for myself but for all of us in the National Federation of the Blind.”

Allergy challenge.

In fact, Weihenmayer doesn’t consider his blindness to be his biggest challenge, but rather the blooming flora that he will face during peak allergy season on Everest, which can present an even bigger obstacle for him. In order to keep the symptoms of his seasonal allergies under control during the trek, Weihenmayer takes an antihistamine that provides seasonal allergy relief and helps him control the distraction his runny nose and itchy eyes can cause.

“Allergies may seem like a minor nuisance, but they actually are a huge distraction, so I talked with my doctor about treatment options,” said Weihenmayer, “I haven’t let my blindness stop me from achieving my goals, so I was certainly not going to let my seasonal allergies stop me either.”

His journey.

Weihenmayer, after losing his sight at age 13, has succeeded in climbing a number of difficult and technical peaks worldwide – many of which had never been attempted by a blind person. Bothered by seasonal allergy symptoms, he was diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis. A 32-year-old husband and father, Weihenmayer has successfully climbed four of the world’s highest peaks including Mount McKinley, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, and most recently Vinson.

He will be among a group of less than 100 climbers, including 28 Americans, who have attempted to reach the highest points on the seven continents.

Top of the world.

He recently authored a book called “Touch the Top of the World,” which chronicles some of his experiences.

“The primary goal of this trek is not to put a blind climber on the summit, but to place a true team of climbers, one of whom happens to be blind, on top of the world,” explains Marc Maurer, National Federation of the Blind president. “The climb will make a bold statement about the capabilities of blind people, their right to assume first-class citizenship, and the truth that, when given the proper training and opportunities, they can do just about anything.”

Aventis Pharmaceuticals is supporting the development of the documentary, “Vision of Everest,” which will capture Weihenmayer’s team as they climb Mount Everest. Designed to show the public that blind people have no boundaries when given an opportunity, the film will be released in spring 2002.


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