Ellen Weihenmayer grew up in Jay, Florida, which is rural as rural can be. Ellen's family grew vegetables, made their own clothes and bartered for most everything they needed. Ellen was a majorette, popular and was crowned "Miss Soybean Queen" in high school.

She met Ed Weihenmayer, a Marine attack-jet pilot, in Pensacola, Florida. He dared not approach. She winked at him. Twice

They married and had Erik. Erik began to lose his eyesight at an early age. It was Ellen who insisted that Erik attend a regular school. She refused to send him to a school for the blind. Erik vacuumed, cleaned his room, rode his bike. "If he bumped the vacuum into the wall, he bumped the vacuum into the wall," recalled Ed.

Erik inherited Ellen's sense of mischievousness - he loved throwing eggs at cars - mooning seniors - although as his sight worsened - he began to feel lost. It was wrestling which helped him make the transition into blindness - particularly throwing a sighted kid to the mat.

Ellen died in a car accident when Erik was 16. The family began to hike and trek as a means to cope with her death. Ed would steer Erik down mountainous terrain. "It was the beginning of something pretty cool," says Erik. Twenty years later, Erik stood on the top of Mount Everest.

"I've been looking for my mother in all the wrong places," Erik says. "When I'd visit her grave, I could never find her there... she is the crunch of snow under my feet. She is the rock warmed by the sun. She is the wind in my face...."

For more information on Erik log on to www.touchthetop.com.



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Facts about Erik

  • First blind climber to summit Mt. Everest

  • Was one of Connecticut’s premier wrestlers in high school

  • Erik has climbed five of the fabled Seven Summits, and will attempt his sixth this year

  • Erik is also a marathon runner and an acrobatic skydiver

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life."
— Abraham Lincoln



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