In the realm of existence, there resides an individual. Despite the absence of sight, his spirit embraces the allure of exploration. He has ascended the zenith of each continent—a testament to Eric Weinmeyer’s enduring odyssey.
Situated on a serpentine suburban thoroughfare in Golden, Colorado, USA, Weinmeyer’s abode conceals a garage. At the early hour of 6 a.m., Weinmeyer extracted his tandem bicycle from its resting place. The trajectory led to a rock precipice halfway up the mountain, offering panoramic vistas of the city below. Yet, for Weinmeyer, mere mountain climbing failed to satiate his adventurous appetite. His desire extended to ascending the mountain on his bicycle beforehand. Contemplating the feat, the seasoned adventurer mused aloud, “What further elements must we incorporate to transform it into a triathlon?”
Wayne Meyer’s existence unfolds as a narrative of defying boundaries and surpassing expectations. Scaling the pinnacles of each continent, navigating the Grand Canyon by kayak, conquering the notorious “nose” route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, and triumphing over some of the world’s most arduous climbs—these are feats considered remarkable even for those endowed with normal vision. Remarkably, Wayne Meyer is completely sightless.
The genesis of Wayne Meyer’s extraordinary escapades commenced as a pastime, evolving into a vocation. Chronicling his exploits in three literary works and gracing five cinematic productions and numerous television series, he embodies a versatile athlete proficient in skiing, ice climbing, mountain biking, surfing, and hang gliding. Alongside his spouse, Ellie, they nurture two adolescents.
Ascending the mountain consumed half an hour. Struggling to keep pace with Wayne Meyer and Skylar Williams, the duo engaged in discourse spanning topics from the renaming of the Washington Redskins to team dynamics, navigating through rules of expectoration, and the introduction of the new guide dog, Zena. Despite the meandering journey, its twists failed to render it tedious. Williams halted the vehicle at a juncture, affirming, “We have arrived. I apprised you long ago. The distance is not considerable.”
Beyond the guardrail, the precipice unfolded. A descent was requisite before initiating the ascent. While Williams sought a path beneath the rock wall, Weinmeyer retrieved an assortment of vibrant carabiners from his satchel, emitting a melodious jingle. His olive-hued glass orbs, though purely ornamental, gleamed in the morning light.
Wayne Meyer meticulously fastened my safety rope into an impeccable figure-eight knot. Clutching my “lifeline,” he directed, “Lean back.” Sporting a grin, he queried, “Is this your inaugural experience being tethered by a blind man?” (The attachment of a safety rope facilitates the regulation of the climbing partner’s rope.)
Dangling on the precipice, trepidation filled my being. Soon, I commenced the descent, oscillating my feet across the rocks. Wayne Meyer followed, descending akin to a lure for aquatic creatures. Upon reaching the moss-green stone slab, he commenced the application of anti-slip powder to his hands—an indication of readiness.
Hailing from Princeton, New Jersey, Wayne Meyer traversed his formative years across locales such as Miami and Hong Kong. Afflicted by a genetic malady called juvenile retinoschisis, his eyesight dwindled from infancy. At 14, on his grandparents’ boat dock in Florida, the realization of his inability to perceive the surroundings dawned. Reflecting on that moment, Weinmeyer uttered, “I contemplated, ‘Oh my God, my vision is so impaired that I cannot take a single step.'”
Averse to a semblance of abnormality during adolescence, Weinmeyer initially eschewed the use of a cane or acquiring a guide dog. The fear of isolation and being relegated to a passive observer terrified him more than the prospect of losing his sight.
Barred from partaking in football or basketball, he gravitated towards the wrestling team at a Connecticut high school—unearthing an unexpected proficiency. Wrestling, reliant on tactile sensation, paralleled climbing, a realization forged at a summer camp.
Embarking on my inaugural climbing expedition this morning, I adhered to Weinmeyer’s guidance, maneuvering my limbs within crevices and ascending along vertical clefts in the rock wall. The last instance of scaling a cliff mirrored a bygone era over a decade ago. Midway through the ascent, the absence of crevices posed a quandary. Sensing the static nature of the rope tethered to him, Weinmeyer implored me to persevere.
From below, he reassured me, “Trust your footing.” His tone, simultaneously encouraging and somewhat detached, mirrored the cadence unique to climbers. He affirmed, “I’ve got you.” Adding with a slightly buoyant note, he continued, “You cannot surrender. Top-rope climbing presents an opportunity for calculated risks.”
Adolescence did not only herald blindness for Wayne Meyer. Two years post the loss of his sight, at the age of 16, tragedy struck again—the demise of his mother in a vehicular accident. His father, a war veteran, initiated a series of wilderness excursions with Wayne and his two brothers. Weinmeyer remarked, “My father sought to keep us united.” This wasn’t a leisurely countryside jaunt; it involved arduous ascents spanning Spain, Peru, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the apex of Pakistan. Weinmeyer conceded, “I loathed those hikes as I lacked trekking poles and relied on canes. My brothers labored to guide me, an immensely challenging task.” However, the sojourn exerted a somewhat therapeutic influence.
Having studied communication and English at Boston University, Wayne Meyer assumed roles as an elementary school educator and wrestling coach in Phoenix, Arizona, post-graduation. Encouraged by the Arizona Climbing Club—a fraternity he likened to a nurturing home—he developed an infatuation with climbing. In 1995, scaling Denali in Alaska, the tallest peak in North America, proved seminal. The inaugural summit ascent captivated him, kindling a passion for the sport.
Having previously conquered Lookout Peak, Weinmeyer ascended with alacrity. His hands traced the rocks with deliberate precision, utilizing both hands and feet to identify fulcrums—a manifestation of impeccable spatial awareness. Only upon reaching the summit did Williams remind him of the accomplishment, offering no additional commentary.
Before descending the mountain anew, Weinmeyer, perched atop the peak, busily reconfigured the rope to another fixed point, preparing for the subsequent climb. The impending route, featuring a formidable bulge at the summit referred to as the “Dome,” presented a heightened challenge. Wrestling with the “dome,” and after multiple setbacks, he unexpectedly surmounted it effortlessly. An exasperated admission escaped him, “This is somewhat embarrassing.”
Weinmeyer articulated that he experiences fear as well but has acquired the skill to master its influence. He envisioned a cognitive construct—an ethereal sanctuary akin to a box, vacuum, or realm of silence—bestowing fear with a novel purpose. This metamorphosis manifests as a lingering, protective aura enveloping the body, safeguarding life. A manifestation of cognitive behavioral therapy’s conventional tools. Whether immersed in the crucible of adventure or fulfilling the roles of an educator and coach, he consistently allows his subjective will to triumph over the essence of the matter, an unwavering principle.
The bedrock of his triumph also lies in the meticulousness of his preparatory rituals and his resolute resolve. Devoting six years to prepare for traversing the Grand Canyon, he expounded on the paramount importance of systematic training. During kayaking, communication with his assistant transpires through a helmet-mounted radio. In the realm of hang gliding, a bell adorns his proximity, resonating upon contact with the ground. While skiing, a guide equipped with a backpack-mounted speaker trails closely, fortifying his sense of direction.
He manifests resourcefulness as well. Confronted with a cautionary note about the reckless swinging of the ice ax potentially propelling ice fragments towards his face during the initial ice climb, he ingeniously repurposed the ax for “probing.” Describing the technique, he elucidated, “I strike the ice, feeling vibrations permeate through it, enabling me to discern the ice density through auditory cues.”
Weinmeyer’s affinity for adrenaline-charged pursuits is apparent, yet he disclaims recklessness. He extols others fervently but resists praise when directed at himself. When complimented on his resilience in conquering the Dome, he responded with a nervous laugh, jesting, “I can only impart the wisdom of embracing failure.”
Contradictory to the humility exuded in his responses, Weinmeyer has forged his professional trajectory through self-promotion. A significant portion of his income emanates from motivational addresses to corporate entities like Google, IBM, and Apple. His demeanor oscillates, resembling at times a lighthearted individual with a penchant for humor and, at other instances, transforming into a comforting motivational sage, imbued with a profound team spirit and indomitable character. He confesses that such shifts make him “slightly uneasy.”
“People may commend you, but introspection reveals one’s inherent humanity—flawed, vulnerable, and harboring fears,” Weinmeyer articulated. “I lack omniscience and refrain from disingenuous pretenses.”
In his twenties, Wayne Meyer embarked on a quest to validate his capabilities to “the world and himself.” He attested, “I’ve experienced and attempted everything. I was the pioneer leaping off a 40-foot cliff in Devil’s Canyon into a pool.” At 23, while climbing in Arizona, a perilous situation unfolded, nearly claiming his life. Reflecting on the incident, he questioned, “‘What am I doing?’ I asked myself upon reaching the summit, contemplating whether I should persist in living a life to substantiate everything to others.” During that period, he grappled with “negative emotions.”
Presently, his impetus derives from “uncovering the realm of possibilities” rather than a compulsion to prove a point. Nevertheless, this life of pioneering exploits exacted a toll. In 2019, Weinmeyer underwent two surgeries to reconstruct finger tendons. Recounting the ordeal, he expressed, “These tendons ruptured completely, a profoundly disheartening experience.” A climbing expedition in Nepal resulted in an unexpected bout of diarrhea. “I was gravely ill, yet somehow reached the summit,” he recollected. Subsequently, a hip replacement surgery followed.
Despite discussions surrounding his “composure” and “tenacity,” his competitive drive remains undiminished. To test his rejuvenated hip, he and Williams kayaked around Manhattan for nine hours. Expressing some dissatisfaction, he remarked, “Skyler and I could have completed it at a swifter pace.” He perceived the guide as sluggish, quizzing, “What’s your opinion, Skyler?” without concealing his discontent.
As the morning unfolded, Weinmeyer prepared for a pioneering ascent, entailing the establishment of anchor points along the route, poised to be the initial climber. In the event of a climber losing footing and plummeting, the fall’s height would surpass that of a top-rope climb, extending two to three meters.
Upon reaching the “dome,” he grappled to locate a fulcrum, extending his hands in search and lamenting, “This area lacks any suitable feature.”
Williams remarked, “Truly, there is no advantageous position.”
“Have I deviated from the course?”
“Perhaps attempt the rightward direction. A pivotal point lies above your head.”
Prepared to ascend the Dome, Wayne Meyer declared, “Okay, I may lose my former plump fingers here.”
“I wager you can reach it with your left hand, but proximity is crucial,” suggested Williams.
Exerting force on the rugged stone slab, Weinmeyer nearly inverted, quadriceps taut, perspiration coating his entire form. Vigorously swinging his hands upward, emitting a groan, kicking his legs skyward, he maneuvered his body toward the rock wall.
Success ensued. Williams and I commenced the packing, destined to reunite with Wayne Meyer at the summit.