Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can Seeby Published 26 Mar 2002
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Erik Weihenmayer was born with retinoscheses, a degenerative eye disorder that would leave him blind by the age of thirteen. But Erik was determined to rise above this devastating disability and lead a fulfilling and exciting life.
In this poignant and inspiring memoir, he shares his struggle to push past the limits imposed on him by his visual impairment-and by a seeing world. He speaks movingly of the role his family played in his battle to break through the barriers of blindness: the mother who prayed for the miracle that would restore her son's sight and the father who encouraged him to strive for that distant mountaintop. And he tells the story of his dream to climb the world's Seven Summits, and how he is turning that dream into astonishing reality (something fewer than a hundred mountaineers have done).
From the snow-capped summit of McKinley to the towering peaks of Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro to the ultimate challenge, Mount Everest, this is a story about daring to dream in the face of impossible odds. It is about finding the courage to reach for that ultimate summit, and transforming your life into something truly miraculous.
"I admire you immensely. You are an inspiration to other blind people and plenty of folks who can see just fine." (Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air)
Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See Reviews
To be certain, this was not at all the book I was anticipating. I remember hearing the news, many years ago, that a blind man had reached the summit of Everest and had come down safely. At the time such a feat seemed simply impossible, so I filed the story in the recesses of my brain with the understanding that some day I would take the time to learn more about it. When I finally decided to read Touch the Top of the World, I did so with the expectation that it be a memoir centered around that monumental experience on the highest mountain on the planet.
Instead and to my surprise, Everest was only the latest chapter to be added, as the book went to the printer (indeed, it even comes after the epilogue), in Weihenmayer's amazing saga of crushing one barrier after another. As Touch the Top makes it clear, Everest was only the culmination (at the time) of a life-long struggle to come to terms with a disability and, having accepted it, to push body and mind far beyond the limitations of blindness. I was impressed by Weihenmayer's deeply personal narrative, sharing with the reader intimate details about his family, as well as detailed accounts of the many experiences that made him into the confident climber and family man that he turned out.
Of course, all of Weihenmayer's successes were possible because of the unrelenting support provided by a wide-ranging network of people who understood what he would not be defined by lack of sight and were fully behind his seemingly impossible, yet groundbreaking adventures. While purely from a mountaineering perspective this book is somewhat thin (the main climbs other than Everest chronicled are Denali, El Capitan and two attempts on Aconcagua), its message is clearly that what matters most is the journey, not the destination(s).
Touch the World is an inspiring introduction to the legend that Erik Weihenmayer has become. As we know now, he went on to complete the Seven Summits, after which he switched gears and delved into other sports like ultra running, rafting and kayaking, with accomplishments that very few sighted people can match. Weihenmayer is living proof that impossible can indeed be nothing.
As a blind person, my most recurrent thought while reading this book was "Holy crap, why is he risking his fingers this way?" Sub-zero temperatures, even lower windchills, and clawing your way over jagged rocks by hand? Not for me, thank you very much.
Actually, even if I had 20/20 vision I'd still have no desire to climb even a small mountain, so the rather drawn-out and technical descriptions of his climbs didn't interest me as much as they probably should have. I found the more mundane parts of the book, where he talks about his family life, school and work to be much more engaging and relatable.
I know the book is meant to be an inspiration, but I didn't really find it to be so. Okay, he climbed Mount Everest, good for him. But there's nothing much in climbing Mount Everest that offers me any practical ideas for how to handle day-to-day stuff. Maybe it's just too big-picture for me.
Also, and this comes on the heels of those two lunatics climbing El Capitan, I just don't find much to admire in that kind of thrill-seeking recklessness, even when it's accompanied by charisma and great skill. So much of that behavior just seems juvenile and selfish, especially for somebody with a family to support.
In conclusion my big take-home lesson from this book was "Better you than me, buddy."
Mike heard him speak at a conference a few weeks ago and was very impressed. So I went out the next day to get his book.
Totally inspiring! Makes me wonder if I ever really do anything really difficult in my life? I feel like I need to climb a mountain or run a marathon or something.
I hope he writes more about the climbs he did after this book. I want to read about Everest!
This guy is blind and has climbed every mountain on earth. I cant even fit in my pants. This book really helps you realize how lazy you are. which is why I burned it and ate some ice cream.
My sister LOVES Eric Weihenmayer; he is her hero and she talks about him on a daily basis. She surprised me recently with a signed copy of this book. It was a very effective way to force me to read it so we could talk about him together.
Weihenmayer -who went blind by the time he started high school- is inspiring because he works around and conquers limitations that would be valid excuses to not do something. His mountain climbing is impressive, but what I loved reading about was when he worked as a teacher. The ways he adapted his class, for example having students write in the board for him, sound like they made a richer experience for the whole classroom. I loved reading about him meeting and falling in love with his wife.
I've been thinking about this book a lot and trying to figure out how to handle things in a more creative way. His story is a reminder to not hold ourselves back or let others hold us back, but to push ourselves and be brave enough to live life fully.