Q&A: Blind Mountain Climber on Summiting Everest

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Tom Foreman: Other climbers look at great chasms and fear them, you hear them?

Erik Weihenmeyer: Yeah. I can hear the sound of space around me; sound vibrations that are constantly bouncing off of objects and coming back at us. And you can hear the sound of open space and the sound of closed space. So definitely, when I'm near a drop-off, I can hear it.

Tom Foreman: Is it just as frightening to you as it would be to anybody else?

Erik Weihenmeyer: It's an overwhelming and pretty scary sound, but I'm not looking, you know, thousands of feet down, so I'm not as freaked out as somebody looking down into some scary crevasse.

Tom Foreman: As you pushed up toward the top, tell me what that was like.

Erik Weihenmeyer: You climb down the South Summit and you're crossing this ridge and I could hear the sounds all around me. It's the width of a picnic table, and (I was) just putting one step in front of the next and trying to keep a very clear, focussed mind, because I just knew that wasn't a place to make a mistake.

When I actually got to the Hillary Step I was in my element: Feeling my way up this rock face was just excellent. 29,000 feet [8,840 meters] and it felt great, and I belly-flopped my way over the top. From there I knew it was just about a half-an-hour trudge to the actual summit.

Tom Foreman: All of us who have not been there, imagine the view. What was the sensation for you?

Erik Weihenmeyer: I could hear prayer flags flapping in the breeze and I could hear the wind and the sound of space and I reached down and touched the snow. I didn't have those views dropping away in front of me, you know, but I think a summit is a lot of an internal feeling anyway. When people say they summit mountains for a view, you know: Get a pretty picture of the mountain and save yourself two-and-a-half months of work. I think it's a lot of an internal symbol of what your life is about.

Tom Foreman: And it was worth it.

Erik Weihenmeyer: And it was worth it. Yeah.

More Mount Everest Stories From National Geographic News:
"Mr. Everest" on 50th Anniversary of First Ascent
First Teams Summit as Everest Season Begins
Biographer: Legacy of Tenzing Norgay's Historic Everest Climb
Dark Side of Everest Awaits Climbers, TV Viewers
On TV: Surviving Everest Tells of Triumph, Tragedy
1963 Flashback: First Everest Summit by Americans
Everest Attempt Is Focus of New Reality TV Show
Climber Conrad Anker on the State of Everest
Everest: Now Just Another Tourist Trap?
Everest Clinic Tends Ills on High
Everest Time Line: 80 Years of Triumph and Tragedy
Making Movies on the Roof of the World
Everest Snowboarder Vanishes On Second Try
Altitude a Major Challenge to Climbers
The Sherpas of Mount Everest
Everest Melting? High Signs of Climate Change
Everest Anniversary Expedition Wrap-Up
National Geographic 50th Anniversary Everest Expedition Reaches Summit
Everest Anniversary Team Makes Final Summit Attempt
Jet-Stream Winds Trap Climbers on Everest
Sons of Mount Everest Pioneers to Repeat Historic Climb

Related Stories From National Geographic Magazine:
Everest: 50 Years and Counting
Sights & Sounds: The Sherpas
American Summit

Related Stories From National Geographic Adventure Magazine:
After the Storm: '96 Everest Survivors (Audio)
Romance on Everest: The Highest Taboo
The Everest Mess
Little Sister, Big Mountain: Climbing the Himalaya's Cho Oyu
Life on Assignment: Himalaya's Cho Oyu (Audio)
The Last Cairn: A Climber's Tragic Saga (Excerpt)
The Slipping Point: Disaster on Mount Hood
8,000-Meter Man: Ed Viesturs
Q&A: Eric Simonson, Everest Sleuth
Q&A With the Man Who Found Mallory

On Television:
National Geographic Channel: Surviving Everest

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