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Blind Adventurer and Motivational Speaker Erik Weihenmayer near his home in Golden, Colorado on Friday, September 20, 2013. Despite losing his vision at the age of 13, Erik Weihenmayer has become one of the most accomplished adventurers in the world. Weihenmayer is the only blind person who has reached the summit of Mount Everest and the tallest peak on each continent.

Photo by Matt Nager

Erik Weihenmayer

Athlete, Adventurer, Author, Activist and Motivational Speaker, and the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001. He was honored with a Time Magazine cover story

On May 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the only blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. In 2008 he climbed Carstensz Pyramid on the island of Papua New Guinea, completing the Seven Summits, the highest point on every continent.  This accomplishment closed the circuit on a 13-year journey that had begun with his…

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On May 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the only blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. In 2008 he climbed Carstensz Pyramid on the island of Papua New Guinea, completing the Seven Summits, the highest point on every continent.  This accomplishment closed the circuit on a 13-year journey that had begun with his 1995 ascent of Mt. McKinley. He is joined by a select company of only 150 mountaineers to have accomplished the feat.

As word spread about Erik’s remarkable achievements, the world took notice; shortly after his summit of Everest, he was honored with a Time cover story detailing his conquest of the world’s highest peak. Since then, he has authored multiple books, including his memoir, Touch the Top of the World. Yet for those who had long known him, his propensity for taking on and knocking down the loftiest of challenges came as no surprise.

Even as retinoschisis began to rob him of his vision by the age of 13, Erik resisted the idea that blindness would sweep him to the sidelines of life. He established himself as a formidable wrestler in high school, representing his home state of Connecticut in the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Iowa. As a teenager, he also discovered rock climbing and a natural dexterity for the tactile aspects of scanning the rock with his hands and feet for holds.

After graduating a double major from Boston College, Erik became a middle-school teacher and wrestling coach at Phoenix Country Day School. Yet it was atop the highest point in North America, the mountain known in the native Inuit language as Denali, where his quest for adventure began to take shape. Erik’s triumphs over some of the world’s most formidable mountains were fueling a growing aspiration to take the lessons he learned in the mountains to help others shatter barriers in their lives.

To advance this idea, Erik co-founded not merely an organization, but rather a movement called No Barriers. The mission is to help people with challenges, all of us to some extent, to turn into the storm of life, face barriers head on, embrace a pioneering and innovative spirit and team up with great people to live rich in meaning and purpose. The motto is “what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.” To this aim, Erik continues to challenge himself to live a No Barriers Life and in September 2014 he kayaked the entire 277-miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

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The No Barriers Life. Through Erik’s groundbreaking adventures around the world, he has explored and defined what it means to live a “No Barriers Life,” describing it as a map we build to navigate and to pursue a life that matters. Central to this journey is a mindset to continually challenge ourselves to grow and evolve – in Erik’s words, to “climb” while others “camp.” Erik describes the key components for shattering barriers and pioneering possibilities, which start with a “reach into the darkness” and a powerful vision to guide us through the storm. It takes building a great “rope team” that shares our vision and makes us stronger and relentlessly innovating new systems and approaches along the way. And it takes the drive to lead and elevate others. As a blind adventurer who has climbed Mt. Everest and kayaked the Grand Canyon, Erik understands better than most that barriers are real, not merely perceived, and that that obstacles encountered can either stop us in our tracks, or we can figure out a way to harness them and propel ourselves to new places that we would never get to in any other way. Erik calls this “alchemy,” the process of turning lead into gold. “With an alchemist,” he says, “you can throw them in the midst of a fierce competitive environment, strip away their resources, throw roadblocks in front of them, and they’ll still find a way to win – not despite adversity, but because of it.” Erik will take audiences on a journey to discover the tools and insights to develop what he calls the “No Barriers Mindset” – what it takes for individuals, teams, and organizations to turn into the storm, convert challenges into greatness, and reach for nearly impossible goals.

Shattering Expectations. Erik Weihenmayer inspires audiences to have the vision to dream big, the courage to reach for near impossible goals, and the grit, determination, and ingenuity to transform our lives into something extraordinary. Weihenmayer’s daring adventures have shattered people’s perceptions all over the world about what is humanly possible. As a blind mountain climber, he has faced one of the most arduous tasks man can attempt, with a unique impediment that turned out to be a special gift. He defines vision as “an internal compass guiding us through the storm,” and gives new poignancy to the concept of seeing.

The Only Way To Cross a Glacier Is With a Rope Team. Weihenmayer speaks with authority on the subject of teamwork. His Mt. Everest expedition holds a world record for the most people from one team to stand atop Everest’s peak in a single day. The key to pursuing his endeavors has been his superb ability to combine his strengths and talents with those of the people around him. He speaks to the importance of working as a team. “People might have different responsibilities, different goals, even motives, but you link together behind one vision. The scope and power of that kind of team is unstoppable.”

Erik Weihenmayer went blind when he turned 13-years-old. We hear how he went from denial and depression to becoming the first blind man to summit Mount Everest, as well as many of the world’s other tallest mountains. He also has kayaked the Grand Canyon and runs a charity for disabled people.

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Erik Weihenmayer on Oprah

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