The 2001 NFB Everest Expedition Send-Off
On March 14, 2001 from 5:30-8:30 p.m., The National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland held a grand send-off for Erik Weihenmayer, an experienced, elite climber who happens to be blind. Erik is part of a Mt. Everest Expedition which will climb the mountain in May. As a preview, Mr. Weihenmayer demonstrated his skill as he scaled the front of the 3-story brick-faced NFB building. The NFB is sponsoring this expedition. You can find out more about the expedition at www.2001everest.com.
"Erik exemplifies the spirit and mission of the National Federation
of the Blind. We believe all blind people can climb their own individual
mountains, provided that they receive proper training and opportunities,
and most importantly, have faith in themselves."
Marc Maurer, President, NFB
Erik Weihenmayer, Golden, Colorado, Climber, age 32. A speaker, writer, and world-class adventurer, Erik is also an acrobatic skydiver and scuba diver, a long-distance biker and marathon runner, a skier and mountaineer, and an ice and rock climber who has scaled Mt. McKinley (1995), El Capitan (1996), Kilimanjaro (1997), Aconcagua (1999), and Polar Circus (2000). What sets him apart, more than his adventurous bent, is that he is blind, but has never let his blindness interfere with his passion for an exciting and fulfilling life.
The band "Can't Hang" tunes up in preparation to entertain the crowd.
Bea Rodgers, Director of the Governor's Office for Individuals with Disabilities, addresses the crowd while Mark Mauer, President of the National Federation of the Blind stands behind her.
Erik Weihenmayer smiles at the crowd before beginning his ascent of the three story brick NFB building in SW Baltimore.
NEWS RELEASE - May 22, 2001 4:00 a.m.
Blind Climber Positioned At 23,500' On Everest
Erik Weihenmayer To Begin Final Push To The Summit On Wednesday
He May Live The Dream Of His Book "Touch the Top of the World"
Erik Weihenmayer, a 32-year old blind mountaineer from Golden, Colorado, is one camp and a final summit push away from living his dream, to touch the very top of the world, 5 1/2 miles up, 29,035', Mount Everest. A few hours ago, he pulled into Camp 3 (23,500') with his 2001 Everest Expedition teammates, hoping for a clear day and a weather window. It has not been a good weather year on the mountain so far. No one has yet summited from the south (Nepalese) side, and Erik has already spent 9 nights 21,250'and now two at 23,500' waiting for an opening. The expedition is sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the largest membership organization of blind people in the U.S.
Because of multiple carries of gear to the higher camps, as well as the stormy weather, Weihenmayer has already crossed the dangerous Khumba Ice Fall nine times. The first passage took a grueling 13 hours 42 minutes; his last passage two days ago was completed in just 5 hours 23 minutes - respectable for anyone, but absolutely remarkable for a blind man. This calls attention to Erik's message, that with special adjustments and creative systems, with courage and an iron will, much of what is considered impossible for a blind person is actually do-able. This mindset is at the heart of NFB's sponsorship of the climb, and is part of its effort to "change what it means to be blind."
The timetable for the final push is highly dependant on the weather, which in turn is heavily influenced by the positioning of the jet stream. When the jet stream is over Everest, which has been the case for the last month, the 29,035' peak is actually in the jet stream, causing winds of 100mph and more at the top. As the season progresses, the jet stream moves north, and leaves behind somewhat calmer winds and clearer weather, at least in the mornings. That seems to be happening now. So the team plans to move up to Camp 4 at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday morning Nepal time, arriving around Noon, then begin its final push to the summit around 9 p.m. that evening (11:15 a.m. Wednesday EST). The team will climb all night, reach The Balcony at approximately 5 a.m. Thursday Nepal time, climb the Hillary Step, and hopefully stand on top of the world by 11 a.m. Thursday (1:15 a.m. Thursday EST). Frequent progress reports will be posted on www.2001everest.com. This history-making event is being captured in a documentary being shot now on the mountain, sponsored by Allegra, a seasonal allergy product.
Everest is the key to Weihenmayer joining less than 100 mountaineers who have actually climbed all Seven Summits, the highest peak on each of the 7 land continents. When he does, he will become one of the youngest. Erik has 4 of them under his belt: McKinley (North America) in 1995, Kilimanjaro (Africa) in 1997, where he paused halfway up the mountain to marry his sweetheart Ellen; Aconcagua (South America) in 1999, the highest peak outside of Asia; and Vinson Massif (Antarctica) four months ago. He has also scaled Yosemite's 3300' rock face El Capitan, the highest exposed monolith in the world, in 1996; and Polar Circus, a 3000' ice waterfall and the crown jewel of the Canadian Rockies, in 2000. Formerly a middle school teacher and wrestling coach, Weihenmayer is now a professional speaker and author.
His story, Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb
Farther Than the Eye Can See, was released in the U.S. in February.
Because of his intense training regimen for Everest, Weihenmayer was unable to undertake a book tour at that time, but will tour and promote his book in the U.S. in July and August, England in June, and Germany in September. Book reviews have been enthusiastic.
For Speaking Engagements: Ed Weihenmayer at 904/321-1938 or
For Media: Virginia Remmey, Cohn & Wolfe at 212/798-9511
Weihenmayer's Website: www.highsightspresentations.com
Expedition Website: www.2001everest.com
May 25, 2001
Last night while we slept here on the East Coast of the U.S., history was made on the other side of the world. Blind Mountaineer Erik Weihenmayer and his team, the 2001 NFB Everest Expedition, reached the summit of Mt.
Everest, the highest point on this earth. Erik reached the 29,035-foot summit with his teammates, who also broke records. Included in this remarkable team, in addition to the first blind man to summit Everest, were the first father and son team and the oldest man ever to summit.
This was a grueling trip, with many delays due to weather. For more details on the climb, go to our website (www.nfb.org ) and link to the Everest site.
The Team is now proceeding down to Base Camp. They are still in danger, but all is going well. We are all proud of Erik and are also proud to say that his spirit represents the mission and drive of the National Federation of the Blind. We are not all cut out to be elite athletes and adventurers such as Erik, but we all are faced with our own challenges--challenges which can be mastered with the understanding of others and faith in ourselves.
Director of Special Programs
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND