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 Erik Weihenmayer Reaches the Summit of Kosciusko This Morning 9/5/02

His Dream of Climbing the Seven Summits Becomes A Reality

Joins many Mountaineers Worldwide Who Have Climbed the Seven Summits

At 9:15 a.m. today, Thursday, September 5, Erik Weihenmayer stepped onto the summit of Mt. Kosciusko, the highest peak in Australia, and joined an elite group of mountaineers who have reached the continental summit of each of the seven land continents. While Kosciusko is small by the standards of the other summits, the mountain did not yield its peak very easily. The team left at 3:30 a.m. and climbed through rain, snow and frigid 50+mph winds enroute to the top. Finally there, they broke out a bottle of champagne, chilled by nature, and celebrated this historic moment.

The dream began in 1995, when Erik became the first blind man to summit McKinley. His wife, dad, and two brothers circled above in a small plane that had struggled to get as high as the 20,320’ summit. They watched from just hundreds of feet away as Erik and five teammates took their final steps onto North America’s icy summit. Unfortunately, the expedition had begun with a tragedy high up on the mountain, at 19,000’, where two climbers were trapped in a raging snowstorm, just as Erik’s team was poised at Base Camp to begin their ascent. One perished. One of Erik's teammates asked a rhetorical question: How are we any different than those climbers? Erik pondered that question, until a thought emerged: "I’ve been preparing for this climb my whole life." This is the episode leading into "his story", which he shares with us in his book, TOUCH THE TOP OF THE WORLD.

Seven years have now passed. So much has happened, most of it good. But it wasn’t a cakewalk. Erik was turned back on his first attempt on Aconcagua by 125 mph El Nino winds that were blowing the climbers off their feet. On a practice climb for Everest in the Himalayas, his team faced its own emergency when a teammate fell 150’ in a powerful storm, only to conduct a successful rescue operation which further enhanced its cohesiveness and confidence. When Erik decided to try Everest, he had to fight through the naysayers, those who thought he didn’t belong on the mountain, who thought he was endangering his whole team. He finally concluded that it would be better to try Everest and fail than never to try it at all.

And the good far outweighed the bad. Erik was married at 11,000’ on Kilimanjaro. He and his team were congratulated on their Everest success by President Bush in the Oval Office. He carried the Olympic Torch for both the Summer and Winter Games. He won national awards for courage and achievement. He has become a leading speaker on the corporate circuit. His family now includes a beautiful 2-year old daughter. He has followed his passions, and enjoyed the journey thoroughly.

This love of adventure, this desire to live life to the fullest, influenced the Kosciusko descent. The original plan had been to para-glide off the top, but strong and gusty winds rendered that impossible. Instead, the team decided to ski down from Kosciusko’s summit, an exhilarating experience.

Upon reaching the village of Thredbo, at the foot of Kosciusko, a satellite media blitz awaited Erik, bringing news of this successful quest to Good Morning America and to TV stations in more than 20 metropolitan areas around the country.

Along those with Erik was Eric Alexander and Jeff Evans ...

 

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