ERIK WEIHENMAYER & JEFF EVANS
First Blind Climber and his Climbing Guide to Summit Everest
(Story from When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out by Nikki Stone)
ERIK & JEFF: Sixty days in and, jointly, seventy-five pounds lighter, we found the peak of Everest finally within striking range. The last two months had taken their toll on our bodies, whether blind or sighted. Dysentery had set in and our bodies were cannibalizing themselves in order to get the proteins they needed for energy and survival. The extreme altitude would be enough to slow us down even if we'd been in peak condition. We were quickly running low on our oxygen supply and had to make sure we'd have enough to get back down the mountain. Neither of us had ever summited Everest, and it was a dream we were going to keep pushing each other to achieve.
The night before our final ascent on the summit of the tallest mountain on earth, 29,035 feet above sea level, we came upon two sets of ropes that led up the southeast ridge in different directions. One rope went out 45 feet to the left and proceeded up a steep, craggy band of rocks and then continued on 100 more feet up to the south summit. The other set of ropes went straight up to the ridge in an easier path, but the ropes were buried under a couple feet of snow.
JEFF: I realized I had an enormous weight on my shoulders and one of the biggest decisions of my life to make. The path to the left would be much easier for me, but much harder for Erik. But if I used the extra energy to pull the other ropes out of the snow, I knew that I would, in turn, be sacrificing my first and only summit.
After much contemplation, I kept coming back to the decision that, deep down, I knew I would make all along. This expedition wasn't about me. Our team was here for Erik. My summiting Everest wouldn't be the thing that inspired a group of young, blind Tibetan teenagers to climb a 23,000 foot peak. My summiting Everest would not cause jaws to drop. My summiting Everest would be a personal victory.