The first blind man to reach the top of Mount Everest now hopes to emerge as the winner of ABC’s exciting — and dangerous — reality series “Expedition: Impossible” (Thursdays, 9/8c).
Erik Weihenmayer, 42, is part of three-man team called No Limits, which will have to cross vast deserts, kayak dangerous rapids and repel down 300 foot cliffs in Morocco to grab the $150,000 grand prize.
“The only thing Erik required help in completing were situations that required him to read,” producer Mark Burnett says. “Everything else — he had a great team around him. It is amazing that here is a blind guy riding an Arabian stallion or riding a camel. It really is inspiring.
“I felt like if any blind person is going to have a chance on this, it would be Erik. And I felt it would be extremely inspiring to ordinary people to believe that they could have some of these adventures.”
Weihenmayer, a former school teacher from Boulder, Colorado, lost his sight at the age of 13 to a rare eye disease call retinal skesis.
“I had a gene missing, basically, and the pressure in my eyes built up and made the retina split away from my eyes, so I lost my vision over a matter of three or four years,” the father of two tells XFinityTV. “I have been totally blind for 25 years.”
Watch Erik’s Team Compete In The Series Premiere Of “Expedition: Impossible”:
[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/Expedition-Impossible/141353/2023601555/Sun%21-Sand%21-Sahara%21/embed 580 476]
Did you have to go through training before you got to Morocco?
We had to do a swimming test and a psychological test to make sure you weren’t going to go crazy on the show. Just lots of discussions and so forth and interviews. Medical stuff. I wasn’t so worried about the physical stuff. I know I can achieve most things in the outdoors, but I need some time to figure out and problem solve my way through them.
How much harder is this competition for you – not being able to see?
I can’t just get on a single bike and cruise over the mountains. I need a tandem bike. If I am kayaking, if there is really loud whitewater, I need some really loud, waterproof radio so people can talk to me when I am in the middle of those rapids. So for me there is a little more preparation that goes in to being able to do well in the outdoors.
Any brushes with disaster out there?
Every day I was on the race, I was glad to have survived. I was really worried. I didn’t think I would get killed. But there was definitely risk in that things could happen. You are kayaking whitewater and creeks where there is a 3 or 4 foot white gauntlet. And you have got to aim your kayak through that. It’s a quick left and a quick right and if not, you are going to smack into a boulder and swim. So I was glad to survive that stuff.
Any issues with the camels?
Camels are about the scariest thing I have ever done. I think riding camels is scarier than climbing Everest. I was terrified on those camels one day when they tried to kill me. There are definitely some scary moments on these camels where I thought they were going crazy and were going to throw me off on my head.
Tell us more about you — are you married?
I have been married 14 years. Its funny, I live a pretty boring life. Other than some of these crazy adventures I get to do.
And you have two kids?
My daughter Emma just turned 11. And my son Argent just turned 9. We brought Argent home from Nepal three years ago. I climbed Everest and did a bunch of Himalayan climbing and also better than all the mountains I got to climb, I got to bring home a kid.
Is your daughter adopted?
What else do you do?
I sit at my computer and email and work and write. I have written a couple of books and made 3 or 4 adventure documentaries. I get out and train once a day. I like mountain biking and rock climbing. I like kayaking. So some of the stuff we were doing at the race.
Any mountains left to climb?
I have been getting at it for 20 years, but I have still only climbed… you never even climbed 1 percent of the mountains that exist out there. I will run out of cartilage before I run out of mountains. I have a lot of goals left. I would like to kayak the Grand Canyon. I am 42, so I have some good years ahead of me.