InCite Sample Stories
The Impossible Possible
InCite Sample Stories
All the Way to the Top


On the morning of May 25, 2001, school teacher Erik Weihenmayer of Golden, Colorado,
stepped to the top of the world, and achieved a major milestone.  Dominating the
Himalayans and highest mountain range on earth, the world’s tallest peak, Mount
Everest, looms forbiddingly at 29,035 feet.  Augustly revered by the people of Nepal as
Sagarmartha, “the goddess of the sky”, this breathtaking, imperial pinnacle has inspired
both awe and trepidation since time immemorial.  

Surmounting the highest point on the planet stands a daunting achievement for anyone
to endeavor.  To stand at the top means to cling along a narrow backbone of ice, snow and
fragmented shale, faced with a precipitous 10,000 foot vertical fall into Tibet on one flank
and a treacherous 7,000 foot drop into Nepal on the other.  Every moment on the
mountain is perilous.  Over 29,000 feet, the Everest peak emerges into a continuous jet
stream, which means the brutally, cold, savage winds can exceed 100 miles per hour.  The
human body suffers crushing physical and mental fatigue from the bombardment of the
severe environment.  At high altitudes, oxygen deprivation causes the human body to go
haywire, the heart to fluctuate wildly, and one’s internal organs begin to shut down.  
Thought processing in the brain becomes disoriented and severely altered.  Even with
every faculty agile, any false step could hurtle a climber thousands of feet straight down a
sheer cliff to their doom.   

For millenniums reaching the top was deemed impossible until 1953 when Sir Edmund
Hillary and Tenzing Norkay became the first to conquer the towering and immutable
peak.  Yet over the ensuing 60 years, Mount Everest has remained obdurate, exacting the
ultimate price from one in nine of those aspiring to attain her perilous heights.  Though
59 bodies were reclaimed from the treacherous icy slopes, nearly 120 corpses still reside
for eternity; lost beneath the endless snows of the great peak.  

When Erik Weihenmeyer made his attempt on Everest he ranked as no newcomer to
mountain climbing.  His previous conquests included Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro,
19,340 feet, Alaska’s Mount McKinley at 20,320 feet, and Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua,
22,834 feet.  Following his astonishing feat on Everest, Erik soon completed his goal to
successfully scale the highest peaks on all seven continents.

So what escalates Erik’s ascents to the realm of incredible?  

This simple fact: Erik is blind.

At age 13, he lost his sight completely to retinoscheses, a rare unraveling of the retinas.  
Undaunted, Erik began rock climbing at age 16.  He accelerated his daring as the years
progressed to include skydiving with his endeavors.  At age 32, he sought and surmounted
the greatest mountain known to the world and to mankind.   Aside from raw courage,
determination and stamina, what enabled a man without sight to accomplish where so
many others with the advantage of their eyes had failed?

The answer?    …bells.

Erik’s companions and the assisting Sherpa guides would carry one or more Alaskan
bear bells attached to their backpack or ice pick.  By listening to the ringing of the bells,
Erik could ascertain direction and details in the guides’ movements, and how he should
set to follow with his ascent.  

There are countless mountains, both real and imagined.  Many appear to loom much
greater than Everest…or blindness.  And we immediately turn away, considering them
insurmountable in our lives.  Focusing on the difficulties and drawbacks, we quickly
succumb to hardship, accept inability or surrender to a disability.  Perhaps we look at the
goal and simply believe it is too high.  Yet there are those who ascertain the
circumstances and conditions, then resolutely move forward toward their peaks and
goals.  They innovate and improve.  

They not only surmount, but also greatly surpass these mountains that would halt others.
Mountains emerge in everyone’s life.  And in a real sense, we are all disabled in some
way, be it a physical sense or a psychological one.  How we face and surmount those
barriers determine our character and the destination for our lives.  Such bell by bell, step
by step thinking got Erik Weihenmayer literally to the top of the world.

Who would have thought to conquer the highest mountain on the planet…

…the ringing of  bells.

Don’t concentrate on the mountain.  There can be incredibly simple solutions to
surmount mountainous complexities, and then reach those lofty pinnacles.
And soon the bells will be pealing; enabling the steps needed to make it all the way to the
top
.


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