Erik Weihenmayer, he comes up with new ways to surprise us. Yesterday, we learned that he not only managed to climb the iconic El Capitan in Yosemite, but he did so in under 24 hours, an impressive accomplishment with or without sight.
Climbing with some of the sport's biggest names – including Hans Florine, Timmy O’Neill, Geoff Tabin, and Charley Mace, Weihenmayer went up the East Buttress route. While that is the shortest path to the top of the famous wall, it still involves 11 pitches and 1500 feet of climbing. He told National Geographic “I wanted something I could free climb, and the length of East Buttress made me feel somewhat confident that I could do it in a day.” That turned out to not be a problem at all, as the squad finished the route in about 8 hours, even passing another team along the way.
This is just the latest in a series of impressive accomplishments by Weihenmayer. His resume also includes a successful climb up Mt. Everest – along with the rest of the seven summits – and a descent of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon by kayak. Over the years he has climbed numerous mountains, competed in adventure races, mountain biked some tough trails, and generally did a number of very adventurous things that even those of us with full use of our eyes would be lucky to do. He has also served as an inspiration for millions around the world, who have seen the boundaries of what a blind person can accomplish redefined again and again.
This isn't even the first time Weihenmayer has climbed El Cap. He did it 20 years ago with Florine as well. But that time they went up The Nose route, taking four days to complete the 32-pitch, 3000-foot wall. This is the first time any blind climber has knocked off El Cap in a single day however, which is pretty much the mark that all climbers are looking for when they take on the massive wall.
At the top of the East Buttress, the team was met by friends who had cold beer and snacks waiting. It didn't take long for Erik to start talking about his next Yosemite climbing adventure, with Florine chiming in that they should try The Nose again, but this time do it in a day as well. Perhaps that will be the next major challenge for Weihenmayer to undertake. We'll just have to wait to see how he surprises us next.