I first heard of Eric when I was newly blind and wondering if I would ever get to live the adventurous life I once had. Eric was a known and experienced mountaineer who regularly hiked with disabled individuals, summiting 6 of the 7 highest peaks including Mount Everest, Denali, and Kilimanjaro. I first met Eric in person when he was giving a motivational speech at the United States Military Academy while I was an instructor there. It was great to finally meet the legend.
Shortly, after meeting we organized a hike together in Colorado and have since built an incredible friendship. Mostly based on trust because there have been times when my life was totally in his hands while hiking up an extreme crevasse, ice climbing or rock climbing. Let’s just say we have spent hours upon hours together, showing Eric’s true heart for servant leadership.
I cannot do my outdoor adventures without him and to be honest he is the only person Tiffany trusts to take me to these extreme environments. Through our climbs together I have truly learned so much about what it means to be a servant leader in extreme environments, he accomplishes this with ease. He has guided me up steep rocky faces, over massive boulders, through windy trails, up ice face cliffs, and over mountains. Eric’s leadership, knowledge, safety, and care of others makes me look at him as a true hero and an example of someone you would always want on your team. I know you will all enjoy getting to know Eric and learning about his speaking events and books!
How did you discover your love for climbing?
I discovered my love for climbing as a kid growing up in Evergreen Colorado. It’s kind of a miracle that I survived! I would disappear into the hills most days in the summer and climb high rock outcrops and make due with whatever old rope I could find in the garage to fix to anchors like trees adhering to the old adage: “if you can’t tie a knot – tie a lot!” It wasn’t until the mentors in my church youth group got a hold of me that I gained a respect and skills to begin truly climbing.
You’ve summited some of the world’s highest peaks, what is your favorite part of the adventure?
I have climbed all over the world and I must say that I love the dreaming and anticipation most. I love dreaming up a plan of what could be next and then putting in the research, building a team, and then finally executing the plan with a trustworthy team. From there, I really enjoy the hard work, the camaraderie, and how the wild places on this earth set one free from today’s modern entanglements. It is truly the simplistic nature of climbing that I love because it boils down to the very basic elements of living, such as shelter, food, water, and friendship. There is freedom in that.
What is the hardest part?
The hardest part can be the waiting. Waiting for weather, for one’s body to be healthy, or waiting for an opportunity to finally achieve a long desired goal.
That and stinky tent-mates (or being the stinky tent-mate).
What is the scariest thing that’s ever happened?
Descending AmaDablam in a storm after a failed summit attempt with my blind friend Erik Weihenmayer. After waiting out a storm at over 20,000 feet for six days with Erik we had to pull the plug. When we arrived at our lower camp at 19,000 feet I unclipped from the fixed ropes and stepped on a loose rock. The rock was perched on top of a 600-foot slabby cliff next to my tent and when it turned over it sent me over the edge. Some four-letter words flew out of my mouth as I began a freefall – help, stop, grab, pray! With the good fortune of bouncing off of some rock, I fell 150’ and landed on a ledge, as if landing in the hand of God.
Providentially I landed on my feet and sustained no broken bones. It certainly appeared as though there had been some divine intervention on my behalf. That night as my body went into shock my lungs filled with fluid and I got pulmonary edema. Though this was life-threatening I had a strange peace through it all that God would see me through. He did, and the next year I summited Everest with blind Erik.
How do you find strength and courage to keep going when it’s difficult?
Prayer, trust, friends, fellowship and the Lord’s faithfulness in His Word. Without a faith in God, without leaning on Jesus and being helped by others who shared this faith, I could not have done it. When I try on my own I continually come up short, I am thankful for those hard times that I can look back on as an Ebeneezer of sorts to remind me of God’s faithfulness.
What is your favorite mountain? And why?
My favorite mountain is the one that I will climb tomorrow. I think looking forward and not back is always important and if I never get to leave the beautiful state of Colorado again I want to be satisfied with climbing that local hill with my daughters. Not everything has to be an Everest or outdo Everest, finding joy in the journey of every day is just as, if not more, important than planning those big goals. This is not a plan to underachievement rather a way to contentment.
How does climbing help you in your everyday life?
Climbing gives me space, time to think, time to pray and most importantly time to listen to God’s often quiet voice. Climbing also forces me out of my comfort zone, when I can overcome those obstacles the others in my everyday life don’t seem quite so big and scary.
What’s your advice for someone who is scared of the challenge?
Close your eyes – it’s easier when you can’t see it. No, I’m just kidding. I don’t know if that’s actually true as Erik seems to have many of the same fears I have, sometimes it is greater when his imagination gets the better of him and sometimes less when he can’t truly see the danger.
I would say clinging to the promises of God is the best place to start. Next: don’t face the challenges alone. Find strong, trustworthy, faithful people and surround yourself with them, get prayed up and then step forward courageously.
Be strong and courageous do not be discouraged do not be terrified for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 take it to heart.
See more from Eric:
Purchase his book here.