The first blind man to climb Mount Everest narrates his kayaking descent of 300 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
On one level, this is a tale of grit, determination, courage, and overcoming tremendous odds. With co-author Levy, Weihenmayer (The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles Into Greatness, 2007, etc.) presents an exhilarating adventure story of arduous mountain climbing and whitewater kayaking, but he also offers broader life lessons. Over the course of eight years, the author organized his kayaking team as a byproduct of helping others, including blind orphans in Tibet and Nepal, blind teenagers in America, and veterans of our recent wars recovering from physical and mental wounds. Among them was Kyle, an amputee who pledged to scatter a fallen comrade’s ashes from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, and a shy blind kid named Joey, who had never peeled an orange. Weihenmayer’s organization No Barriers is intended to address those in need in many different ways. For one, the author works intensively with youth. “For blind kids to succeed,” he writes, “they don’t just need other blind people. They’ll need to work with seeing people to harness those abilities and learn to thrive in the sighted world.” Weihenmayer elaborates on the skills required to achieve significant goals, including finding the right people, technologies, and methods necessary to accomplish these goals. It took a team of 10 to help the author make his descent down the Colorado, and the stories of the team members, some of whom had been with the author through many adventures, add to the narrative. Together, they developed a plan of attack for each of the rapids and unique communication and power supply methods, and they were backed by a logistics operation moving tons of equipment. Ultimately, in this highly inspirational tale, the Grand Canyon, like Everest and other summits, becomes a metaphor for life: “physical, mental, and psychological and…never ending.”
A wonderful tribute to the greatness of the human spirit.