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Everyone can't climb every mountain, but we all dream



Published: Sun, June 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mountains have long provided the poet and the songwriter with a metaphor for overcoming great obstacles or reaching great heights.

"Climb every mountain ... till you find your dream," has been a musical standard for four decades, for instance.

But what can a writer say about someone who's dream was, literally, to climb the highest mountain? "Well done," hardly seems adequate. And what can be said to the climber who climbs the highest mountain against all odds? We don't know, but we're going to try to find the words, because last week two men left their marks on Mount Everest, and in so doing they represented the aspirations of thousands of their peers.

One of those men, Sherman Bull, a 64-year-old physician from New Canaan, Conn., became the oldest climber ever to reach the summit. As remarkable as that may be, it is a record that is destined to be broken.

As people live longer, take better care of themselves and remain more active, someone older will come along to climb Everest. Inevitably there with be a septuagenarian at the summit.

The first: But Erik Weihenmayer, 32, of Golden, Colo., is another matter. Weihenmayer will always be the first blind climber to stand on top of the world.

Climbing Mount Everest is an amazing accomplishment for any climber, even those who are in the prime of their lives, with all their senses at their most acute.

Never before has a sightless climber managed this extraordinary feat. But Weihenmayer is an extraordinary climber.

He took up rock climbing at 16, three years after losing his sight to a congenital disease. He climbed Everest using a technique he has used before, following the sound of bells tied to the clothes of fellow climbers.

He has already climbed Mount McKinley in Alaska, Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

An example: Weihenmayer's accomplishment brings new meaning to the metaphor of mountain climbing. He has demonstrated that anyone can attempt almost anything -- and with enough determination, ingenuity and a helping hand or two -- can succeed.

Standing atop Mount Everest, Weihenmayer couldn't see the world below, but he could feel the exhilaration of realizing a dream.

The rest of us, regardless of age or disability, would do well to pick out a few dreams or set our sights on a few mountains and follow the example set by Sherman Bull and Erik Weihenmayer.




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