Weihenmayer inspires Trojans to break barriers

Published 11:37 pm Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Erik Weihenmayer was the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. But, for him, Mount Everest is old news.

“That was in 2001; that’s old news,” he said. “I think about what I want to do tomorrow. I still want to do more. I want to create more. I want to climb more.”

For more than an hour Wednesday morning, those who packed the Claudia Crosby Theater for the 24th Annual Helen Keller Lecture listened intently as Weihenmayer shared his journey from darkness into to a world of opportunities, challenges and victories over the barriers of blindness.

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Before a backdrop of mountains peaks and raging rivers, the American adventurer, athlete, author and activist, challenged his listeners to face the challenges in their lives and, “to get through or get hammered.”

Weihenmayer told his audience that life is most often filled with more struggles that triumphs.

His struggles began when he lost his sight at age 14 due to an eye disease. But, even at that young age, he was determined not to allow blindness to keep him for accomplishing his goals.

When he had an opportunity to go rock climbing, young Weihenmayer found humor in a blind boy going rock climbing. But, it was there, feeling his way along the rocks, that Weihenmayer realized facing the challenges of life is not for the fainthearted.

He went on to become a high school wrestling champion in his home state of Connecticut and then to teach and coach. Then, he climbed the Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America. From then on, the sky was the limit.

He began a 13-year journey that included completing the Seven Summits, the summit of the highest points on every continent, and kayaking the entire 277 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

He would not be paralyzed by fear. Not even when the Lava Falls rapids whipped him like a monster’s tale. He went back again and, that time, he challenged the monster and triumphed.

“There are barriers that will knock you down when you are trying to live a life that matters,” Weihenmayer said. And, there are three ways to face the struggles and challenges of life – as quitters, as campers and as climbers.

A quitter can easily be identified. A camper, he said, starts with hope and optimism but, along the way gets beaten back and stops. But a climber, figures out a way to grow and to meet the challenges, to be triumphant.

Erik Weihenmayer is a climber, not “just” of mountain peaks but in meeting the challenges of life and in his desire to live a life that matters. And, for him, that means sharing the lessons he has learned through his struggles and triumphs to help others shatter the barriers in their own lives.

He is co-founder of “No Barriers,” which is a movement with the mission of helping people with challenges face the barriers in their lives, to be climbers and to square off with those challenges and harness them.

“Because what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way,” Weihenmayer said in conclusion.

The audience stood and applauded Weihenmayer, the adventurer and the man.