Volume V Issue XXXVII


Erin Brady Worsham: Breathtaking Metamorphosis
  by Associated Press / Knox News


A Time For Every Purpose
  by Anne Voegtlin


A Dose of Strength
  by Jennifer Basye Sander


I Turned My Life Around
  by Shelly Sundholm


Dunk Not
  by Joseph Walker




Let's Become Fearless
  by Mark Reiman


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Seattle Washington USA


ON TOP OF THE WORLD: A Letter From Erik Weihenmayer


erik_top.jpg (10427 bytes)In June of 1999, Incredible People had the pleasure to talk with and subsequently write about a remarkable young man who was turning the rock and mountain climbing world on its ear, in a story entitled Setting His Sights High. Blind since the age of 13, Erik Weihenmayer had already climbed three of the Seven Summits and scaled the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. He told IP then he was planning an ascent of Mt. Everest in2001, still two years in the future.

Three years later Weihenmayer has achieved his incredible mountain climbing goals and made history many times over. There will be, without a doubt, more daunting challenges and mountains to climb, both figuratively and factually. But Incredible People Magazine has no doubt that his ultimate goal will continue to be the same as he told us three years ago: to be an encourager-- one whose actions give others courage; and someone who shatters people's beliefs in the limitations they place on themselves.

Now, here in a wonderful update, is a letter from Erik:  (Mark Reiman, Editor)


Dear Friends and Family,

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Erik Weihenmayer
Photo: Didrik Johnck

I’m home now enjoying some time with the family after completing my seventh summit, Mt. Kosciusko, tallest peak in Australia. My quest to climb the Seven Summits has taken me seven years, starting with Mt. McKinley in 1995. We reached the top of McKinley on June 27, 1995; ironically, it was Helen Keller’s birthday. Carrying my 50-pound pack and dragging my 50-pound sled, I remember thinking this is the hardest thing I could possibly imagine doing, but, with the crunch of the snow under my feet, feeling the slow steady rhythm of my body pushing up the slope, surrounded by my best friends, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life but climbing mountains.

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Nepal, Mt. Everest, NFB 2001 Everest Expdition climbing team makes their way across a rickety bridge suspended high above the Dudh Kosi River enroute to Base Camp. Ama Dablam looms in the background.
Photo: Didrik Johnck

So I proceeded step by step. In 1997, I climbed Kilimanjaro and got married to my beautiful wife, Ellie, half way up the mountain on the Shira Plateau. It took me two tries to get to the summit of Aconcagua, tallest peak in South America.  On my first attempt, we were turned back at 21,000ft by gale-force winds. In the winter of 2000, my friend, Chris Morris, and I, after waiting out bad weather for ten days, reached the top of Antarctica’s Mt. Vinson on a beautiful 50 degrees below zero day. Then there was Everest, by far the hardest of the seven. Two and a half months of work, much of it above 20,000ft, and years of dreaming and planning. On May 24th of 2001, 19 members of my team reached the top of Mt. Everest, a world record, and the most from one team to reach the top of Everest in a single day. Last June, we climbed Mt. Elbrus, tallest peak in Europe, and rewarded ourselves with a fantastic 10,000ft ski descent, compliments of my ski guide, Eric Alexander. And just last week we drank champagne in a total whiteout on the top of Australia’s Kosciusko with 60 mph winds knocking us around. I wouldn’t have had it any other way; the mountains put up a fight right to the end.

I climb mountains for reasons of joy and friendship, beauty and accomplishment, but on a larger scale, the image of a blind person standing atop the Seven Summits is so unexpected, I think it forces people to re-examine their perceptions about what is possible, and perhaps ultimately awakens the possibilities in their own lives.

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Nepal, Mt. Everest, Erik Weihenmayer ascending through the Khumbu Icefall en route to Camp 1. Erik summitted Mt. Everest on May 25, 2001 as part of the NFB 2001 Everest Expedition.
Photo: Didrik Johnck

But enough about past exploits. At age 33, I’m not satisfied to look backwards. I have a tick-list a mile long, enough adventures to fill a thousand lifetimes: big walls in the Yukon, ice faces in Alaska, first ascents in Tibet, and my new sport, para-gliding: an easy way for broken-down climbers to descend in a hurry. In December, my family and I have been invited by the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind to tour the country, to meet Sir Edmund Hillary, and to climb Mt. Cook; and in February, if the political climate is right, we’re heading to West Papua to climb Carstensz Pyramid, sponsored by National Geographic Explorer.

Standing in the pounding wind on top of Kosciusko, I realized that, for me, the meaning of the Seven Summits isn’t as much about the finishing, but about the doing. As I wrote in my autobiography, Touch the Top of the World, "Why did people, including myself, envision a mountain as only a summit. It was like looking at an iceberg and only recognizing the part above the water. I thought about all the wonderful moments I had experienced on mountains: hiking with my brothers in the highlands of Irian Jaya, playing baseball with ski poles and snow balls on Denali. And holding hands with Ellie atop the Praying Monk. These moments seemed frozen in time, and I could bring them up to the surface whenever I wanted. They were like snap shots, defining the essence of who I was, what I wanted, whom I loved. Maybe, the real beauty of life happened on the side of the mountain, not the top."

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Erik Weihenmayer (center) and members of the Allegra-NFB 2002 Elbrus Expedition Team summit Mt. Elbrus in Russia. 
Photo: Didrik Johnck

Thanks for your prayers and support over the years.

Climb high,

Erik Weihenmayer










Editor's postscript:  To stay informed of future climbs and presentations, you can visit Erik's website at, www.touchthetop.com   I also highly recommend this story and accompanying photo gallery at http://climb.mountainzone.com


Hope      Courage     Determination      Compassion
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