He can’t see, but he believes.
For 21 days, blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer will kayak through some of the world’s most challenging whitewater terrain on the Colorado River. The 277-mile journey launched on Sunday at Lee’s Ferry, and Weihenmayer and his team will travel through the Grand Canyon before finishing at Pearce Ferry.
Weihenmayer partnered with Nature Valley to motivate others with his No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition. “Sometimes people have challenges and don’t feel equipped to handle them, and they allow that dark force to shove them to the sidelines,” says Weihenmayer. “It’s not easy — but use your team, use your resources, and innovate your way through those barriers. Harness those challenges.”
Erik Weihenmayer is blind and will kayak 277 miles on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
A trip like this takes years of training and planning from a troop of professionals. Erik is traveling with a team of experienced paddlers — as well as a crew on inflatable boats — who scope out the terrain ahead and carry supplies down river. Weihenmayer’s helmet is equipped with a high-tech earpiece that connects him to his river guides, who float closely behind, giving commands and warning him of dangers ahead. “The radios are fully waterproof, and the commands are really loud. I think that was a confidence builder for me,” says Weihenmayer. “In the middle of these loud rapids I know that I’m going to hear the commands. I’m not going to miss something.”
And Weihenmayer isn’t the only blind man on the trip. Lonnie Bedwell, a Navy veteran, also joined the kayaking team. “Hopefully, the two of us doing this together will make an impact on others, says Lonnie. “It shows people it’s not just an anomaly of one person doing it. We can do it. This group can do it. And so can anyone out there who is struggling to make something of their life.”
Erik Weihenmayer and Lonnie Bedwell before their 21-day kayaking expedition (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)
The Grand Canyon expedition sounds intense, but it’s definitely not Weihenmayer’s first experience with extreme adventures. In 2001, he became the first blind man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He also climbed the Seven Summits in a seven-year span and scaled the overhanging granite face of El Capitan in the Himalayas. And if that weren’t impressive enough, he’s also a certified solo skydiver and teaches his own blind downhill skiing technique to groups around the country.
In an effort to encourage people to not limit themselves, Weihenmayer is doing this expedition with the hope of getting one million people to pledge to live a no-barriers life — a mantra he’s been following since losing his sight to a retinal disease at age 13. Since then, he’s been climbing mountains, pushing his personal limits, and inspiring others. “I’ll run out of cartilage before I run out of mountains to climb,” Weihenmayer says.
Follow Erik Weihenmayer’s progress and pledge to live a no-barriers life.
Erik Weihenmayer navigates some whitewater in the Colorado River. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)