SI Vault
With a Little Help from His Friends
Austin Murphy
June 18, 2001
He was so close to reaching his goal he could taste it. Twelve days after becoming the first I blind climber to summit Mount Everest, an hour before his connecting flight left Los Angeles for Denver and home, Erik Weihenmayer approached a McDonald's in the terminal. "I smell that grease," he said, "and I want some."
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June 18, 2001

With A Little Help From His Friends

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"O.K.," said Evans, who went on to summit.

Then there was Weihenmayer's favorite bellboy, Alexander, back in crampons a year after nearly dying from a fall during a training climb on Ama Dablam, another Himalayan peak. A few weeks before the final push up Everest, Alexander had confided to Ed Weihenmayer, Erik's father, his fears that he would not be strong enough to summit. On summit day, however, no one on the team was stronger than Alexander—with one possible exception.

"We underestimated Erik," says Scaturro. "The dude just ran away from us."

"I get the praise for overcoming blindness," says Weihenmayer. "But everyone on the team overcame something to get there. When we summited together, it was like we weren't different. We had this great bond to connect us the rest of our lives."

Overhearing this, Alexander cannot help adding a poignant sentiment of his own: "Did Erik tell you about the holes we all cut in the bottoms of our backpacks? You know—so his legs could stick out while we carried him up the mountain."

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