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Erik Weihenmayer Presents “No Barriers” Life to St. Michael’s Catholic Academy Students
Austin, TX, May 7, 2018 – Quitters, Campers and Climbers — where do you fit, quizzed Erik Weihenmayer, an American athlete, adventurer, author, activist, and the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, in his address to students during the inaugural St. Michael’s EDIFY event on May 3.
During his presentation, Weihenmayer challenged students to be climbers — people who are seekers, people who want to be the best version of themselves because more than going blind at 13, Weihenmayer was most afraid of not being able to participate in life, of being sidelined for being sightless. That, he said, has been the motivating force behind his mountaineering and pioneering spirit and will.
With his service dog Yuri by his side on the stage of the Gloria Delgado Theatre, amid film clips of his climbs playing on the screen off to his left, Weihenmayer conveyed his experience scaling the “Seven Summits," the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, particularly Mt. Everest, in the dark.
On the mountain, amid crevasses, slim ledges and over deep canyons, he listened to every sound and had to follow directions under extreme conditions. Everyone was roped together and dependent on one another. If one fell, the others had to be able to dig in to stop him for the good of all. His rope team trusted him to do his part and were there for him at critical moments.
“That requires absolute trust, and after three months on the mountain, at 26,000 feet, you're at your limit — physically near death, and you still have to make it down. As the Sherpa guide told us, ‘It doesn’t count if you don’t make it back.’”
As he spoke about his many adventures, including kayaking the Grand Canyon Colorado River, a journey of 277 miles through level 10 rapids, Weihenmayer’s theme was to explain that the “No Barriers” life is about figuring out how to tap into whatever we have inside of us and to live with purpose and an open heart. He reiterated this when spending extra time with students in the classroom and at a Q & A session to further discuss the “No Barriers” life.
Junior Grace Usleman shared a “No Barriers” moment in her own life at the Q & A session. Usleman wants to be a songwriter. She has an opportunity to perform a song she wrote at the school’s “On the Deck” outdoor music series.
“I’m really nervous about performing my own song in front of everyone at school, but I realize that if I’m committed to being a songwriter, I’ll have to reach down and break through that fear,” Usleman said.
Weihenmayer agreed that Usleman’s challenge was a great example.
Weihenmayer spoke ardently about his life experience and drew the students into his narrative during his brief time at St. Michael’s so that his compelling messages may reverberate in their own lives.
“Don’t be afraid to turn into the storm. Don’t lose your life force to the world,” he said. In other words, climb, don’t camp. “And find a great ‘rope team,’ people whom you can trust and love, because no one succeeds alone,” Weihenmayer said.
EDIFY: A Speaker Series is made possible by a $500,000 grant from a St. Michael’s family for the express purpose of inviting compelling, contemporary leaders and visionaries to the St. Michael’s campus to address students in a series of stimulating talks. Its mission is to unleash and enlighten the intellectual curiosity of St. Michael’s students so that they may form the habits of mind and heart that will enable them to courageously contribute to the common good.