Meet the Blind Man Who Climbed Everest—and Wants to Help Others Do the Same

Summitting Everest led the founder of the nonprofit organization No Barriers USA to even greater heights—changing other people’s lives.

Meet the Blind Man Who Climbed Everest—and Wants to Help Others Do the Same

The team at No Barriers USA knows how travel can expand people’s ideas of what’s possible.

Photo courtesy of Erik Weihenmayer

In 2001 he became the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. But the biggest undertaking of Erik Weihenmayer’s life began after he climbed the world’s tallest peak.

Having conquered his own hurdles to become a globe-trotting adventurer, Weihenmayer wanted to help others overcome their limitations. So in 2003, he cofounded No Barriers, an organization that leads people on challenging journeys to build their confidence and help them discover what they’re capable of. “We think of No Barriers as a mindset that helps you find purpose in life,” he says. “It’s not just about blind people or extreme adventure people. It’s about those who struggle with different frailties and fears and anxieties, which includes pretty much everyone alive.”

Erik Weihenmayer

Erik Weihenmayer

Photo by Matt Nager

After climbing Denali in 1995, Weihenmayer decided to scale the Seven Summits. Weihenmayer has shown other visually impaired people how to see the world without their eyes on hikes through the Grand Canyon. He has helped veterans with disabilities work in teams on rock climbing trips, rebuilding the sense of trust they may have lost. His group has taken students from inner cities—including participants in the Learning AFAR program—to far-flung destinations such as Peru and Cambodia.

Every trip encourages people to leave their comfort zones. “Part of the equation is to do something scary, because it makes you feel vulnerable,” Weihenmayer says. “It’s a gauntlet you have to go through.”

Weihenmayer’s third book, No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Canyon

, came out in February 2017.

>>Next: Why Do People Climb Mount Everest? These Riveting Stories Explain the Fascination
Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of Afar.
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