BY RICHARD RHINEHART
Denver, Colorado, May 25, 2011: Celebrating the tenth anniversary of his historic ascent of Mount Everest, World T.E.A.M. Sports director Erik Weihenmayer sought new outdoor adventures that would challenge him both physically and mentally. Learning of the new ABC Television series “Expedition Impossible” from “Survivor” and “Eco-Challenge” producer Mark Burnett, Weihenmayer applied – and was delighted to be accepted.
Despite his blindness, Weihenmayer remains active in outdoor pursuits. Last October, he participated as one of the leaders of the successful Soldiers to the Summit Nepal Expedition, a partnership between Weihenmayer and World T.E.A.M. Sports. Eleven wounded warriors successfully reached the summit of 20,075 foot Lobuche. To recognize the May 25 anniversary of his successful 2001 ascent of Everest, Weihenmayer recently climbed Colorado’s Quandary Peak with nine of the team members from his Everest climb, along with five wounded warriors who climbed Lobuche. This June 25-27, Weihenmayer will participate in the fifth running of the Adventure TEAM Challenge in Colorado – an event he created with World T.E.A.M. Sports, modeled on the legendary Primal Quest adventure race, but including athletes with disabilities. Immediately following the conclusion of the Challenge, Weihenmayer is off to Winter Park, to his No Barriers Summit, a gathering of inventors, scientists, athletes and humanitarians who showcase cutting edge ideas and approaches that help those with disabilities shatter personal barriers.
Despite his extensive experience in outdoor activities, Weihenmayer found ABC’s Expedition Impossible to be more difficult than expected. “As a blind adventurer, I’ve faced a lot of scary challenges on high mountains around the world,” he said. “However, I’ve never been so frightened as when I had to gallop Arabian stallions and camels across the desert of Morocco. I’d rather climb Mt. Everest five times than get back on a spitting biting camel as it throws up green vomit and attempts to buck me off on my head.”
As a part of the No Barriers Team, Weihenmayer invited Soldiers to the Summit participants Aaron “Ike” Isaacson and Boulder, Colorado mountaineer Jeff Evans. Isaacson, a Kansas National Guard veteran from Topeka who has had two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained in a 2005 land mine explosion in Iraq. “Expedition Impossible is a wonderful example of Americans from all walks of life working very hard through mental and physical challenges to achieve greatness with their fellow teammates,” said Isaacson. “Our team ‘No Limits’ set out to prove that injuries and disabilities don’t have to hold you back from achieving your goals. You only live once and you should get out there and make the most of every day.”
Featuring 13 teams of three, Expedition Impossible features ten stages with challenges ranging from raging rivers to desert to crossing snow-capped mountains. Members of the winning team will each receive $50,000 plus a 2011 Ford Explorer. The series premieres on June 23.
Isaacson is philosophical about his participation in the series. “This television show is a perfect continuation of our goal to summit Mount Lobuche in Nepal on the Soldiers to the Summit expedition. It is never too late to get out and see the world. It is never too late to get out and help others achieve their goals as well. I was very lucky to be on the team with Jeff Evans and Erik Weihenmayer. Those are two solid men that I have great respect for – we put our hearts into not only winning Expedition Impossible, but helping others along the way.”
Says Weihenmayer of his experience in Expedition Impossible: “You’ll see me terrified more than once, and you’ll be blown away by this over-the-top and surprising Mark Burnett adventure. I’m also thrilled to be participating in the upcoming Adventure TEAM Challenge, and especially thrilled there are no camels.”