wrestling:
a sport where two people fight by taking hold of each other’s bodies and trying to pull each other to the ground

icefall:
a river of ice like a ‘glacier’ but steeper and moving more quickly

Eric Weihenmayer (easy version)

When he was a child, Eric Weihenmayer lived with his family in Weston, a town in the northeastern United States, not far from New York City. Eric was born with an eye problem and when he was thirteen, he became completely blind. Twenty years later, on May 25, 2001, Eric stood at the top of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. He was the first blind person to do this.

Eric always loved sports. Before he went blind, he had spent a lot of time playing ball games and riding his bicycle. After becoming blind, he got interested in wrestling, a sport where two people fight by taking hold of each other’s bodies and trying to pull each other to the ground. Eric liked wrestling because he could do it well even though he couldn’t see.

When he was sixteen, Eric started rock climbing. He thought this was even better than rock climbing because the rocks didn’t move.

After he’d finished high school, Eric went to university and learned to be a teacher. When he had finished university, Eric got a teaching job in the southwestern United States. There, he did a lot of rock climbing. He also started climbing mountains and climbing on ice. In the next few years, Eric did many very difficult rock climbs and ice climbs. He also climbed the highest mountains in North and South America and in Europe, Africa, and Antarctica.

After all these difficult climbs, Eric wanted to climb Mount Everest, but after thinking about this for a while, he decided that climb would be too hard for a blind person.

Then Eric met another climber called Pasquale. Pasquale asked Eric if he wanted to climb Everest and Eric said he did. Pasquale said he would lead a group of climbers up Everest and that Eric could be part of the group. That is what happened.

The hardest part of climbing Everest is crossing the ‘Khumbu Icefall‘—a place where a river of ice runs down the side of the mountain. Because the ice is always slowly moving it isn’t possible to make paths there. The climbers have to find their own way through the big pieces of ice. And each climber has to make several trips across the icefall, carrying things up to the camp at the top.

Crossing the Khumbu was much worse than anything Eric had had to do in any of his earlier climbs. Because there were no paths, he couldn’t use his hearing to help him as he usually could. He had to take small, careful steps because he was walking on broken ice. He had to jump over deep cracks in the ice. On his first trip, he fell and hurt his nose. When he got to the camp at the top he was very tired. He got into his tent and fell asleep right away. Pasquale had to take his boots off for him.

Usually a climber’s first trip across the Khumbu Icefall takes about seven hours. Eric’s first trip took thirteen. The other climbers in the team saw how much trouble Eric was having crossing the icefall. They told him he could rest in the camp. He didn’t have to make any more trips. But Eric said, No. He wanted to be a full member of the team, just like all the others. In the end, Eric crossed the Khumbu ten times. His last trip took him five hours.

On the higher parts of Mount Everest, above the icefall, things were easier for Eric. But on the last part of the climb the climbers were stopped by a bad storm. There was a strong wind, blowing snow, and thunder and lightning. The team had to wait until the weather improved.

On the last steep climb, just below the top Eric felt that, because he was blind, climbing was easier for him than for the others. It was dark, so no one could see very well, and he was used to finding his way with his hands.

-information from: TIME Magazine, 2001, (Karl Taro Greenfeld); USA Today, 01.06.07, (Jeff Zillgitt); www.everestnews.com/ewkos802.htm; www.provethemwrong.com/weihenmayer.htm; www.homileticsonline.com/subscriber/interviews/weihenmayer.asp; “The Connection,” National Public Radio (US), 03.10