Blind Athlete Conquers Inca Trail in a Single Day

·Managing Editor

Team See Possibilities takes a quick break for a photo during their trek on the Inca Trail with Intrepid Travel. (Photo: Intrepid Travel)

Blind athlete Dan Berlin just took on and conquered the seemingly impossible—hiking the Inca Trail nonstop in less than a day. 

The trail hike, which crosses through three mountain passes on the way to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu typically takes most people about four days. The majority of groups will even do it in more. 

But “Team See Possibilities,” a group of four adventure athletes including Dan, did it in one fourth of the time.

Sound crazy?

In the team’s planning meeting before the run, one of the Peruvian guides who has completed the trek 215 times told the group: “What you are planning to do is not impossible, but the local authorities think it’s crazy for anyone to try, let alone with a blind person.”

Dan, the co-owner of Rodelle, one of the world’s leading vanilla extract companies, began to lose his sight 20 years ago through a gradual cone-rod dystrophy. He chose not to feel sorry for himself and instead created Team See Possibilities. For this particular trip the team worked with the Blind Institute of Technology to raise $10,000.

Also on Team See was Charles Scott, author of the book Rising Son: A Father and Son’s Bike Adventure Across Japan. In his spare time he takes his two young children on endurance challenges around the world to raise money for charitable causes. Alison Qualter Berna, the co-founder of the company Apple Seeds and Brad Graff, an ultra-marathoner rounded out the group.

Last year, the group guided Dan to become the first blind runner to cross the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim nonstop.

On the move. (Photo: Intrepid Travel)

Team See began training on their own over the past few months, but joined together on Thursday, September 24th to do a training hike in Colorado, climbing two 14,000 mountains (Grays Peak and Torreys Peak) in a day.

Success! (Photo: Intrepid Travel)

The team partnered with Intrepid Travel to acclimatize for several days in Cusco, Peru before ascending the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. 

The trek was extremely demanding because of the challenging terrain—rocky and narrow with dangerous drop offs, steep ascents and descents crossing 3 mountain passes. At the highest point the group reached an elevation of nearly 14,000 feet. 

“When we started the trek in the darkness, we were confident in our chances, but after a few hours we realized we probably wouldn’t be able to complete the trek in a single day. The climbs up the mountains sapped our strength, and it was too treacherous to go quickly much of the time,” team member Charles Scott said. “The steep descents were particularly hard with Dan. When we reached the first mountain pass we were already an hour behind schedule.”

The group brain stormed with their Peruvian guide and created a new guiding technique based on the trapezoidal construction the Incas used to provide stability to their impressive stone structures. Two teammates joined their inside hands and used hiking poles in their outside hands to provide a broad base, while Dan held on from behind to the backpacks of each guide. The third teammate followed closely behind to grab Dan in case he fell backward. Sometimes one of the guides slipped, and Dan helped pull him/her back up.

“This allowed us all to go much faster,” Scott said. “We could tell Dan was challenged, but he didn’t complain or give up. He’s a remarkable person.”

It took them 13 hours to reach Machu Picchu.

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