The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem welcomed Erik Weihenmayer to the Hawthorne Hotel for an intimate evening listening to Erik recount some of his many adventures including kayaking the Grand Canyon and scaling Mount Everest.
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 Denali. 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.