Text by Tetsuhiko Endo; Photograph by David D'Angelo / Serac Adventure Films
Colorado's Bridal Veil Falls is an epic, 365-foot ice climb that ranks among the most classic lines in North America. Graded at a burly 5+ on a scale from 1-6 (roughly the equivalent of a 5,10 on rock), its first ascent by Jeff Lowe and Mike Weiss in 1974 literally redefined the ice climbing game and ushered in the modern era of the sport. It is not a line for the faint of heart or weak of body, so it might surprise some to learn that on February 12, it was climbed by a blind man. But then, you should also consider that the blind man in question is Erik Weihenmayer, joined by Iraq war veteran Chad Jukes, who lost his right leg to an explosive device in 2007.
After losing his vision at the age of 13, Weihenmayer went on to become a prolific skier, mountain biker, climber, and alpinist. Between being the only blind person to top out on Everest and the only blind person to climb all Seven Summits, he has made a career out of performing physical feats that most sighted people balk at. It was no surprise then that he gobbled up the recently-reopened Bridal Veil in order to raise awareness about the work of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), an organization dedicated to opening and maintaining wilderness areas for public use. Since Weihenmayer can't judge the ice by sight, he does it by sound. "You are listening for what sighted climbers see as blue,
healthy ice," he says, "it sounds like what I imagine hitting frozen peanut butter
would sound like."
When ADVENTURE called him recently for a chat, it was readily apparent that through courage, calculation, and perhaps just a pinch of lunacy, Weihenmayer is not one to back down from a challenge.
- Nat Geo Expeditions