Renowned alpinist will speak at Nepal fundraiser in Fraser
Erik Weihenmayer went to Nepal with a dream and returned with a son.
On May 25, 2001, the alpinist and adventurer became the first blind man to summit Mount Everest, but he was well on his way to forging a lifelong connection with the country and its people before ever stepping foot on its tallest mountain.
He’d previously attempted two other summits in Nepal and had spent a great deal of time getting to know its people.
“I was building my foundation, learning about Nepal, learning about Sherpas and learning about the different cultures and ethnicities and laying the groundwork for climbing the mountain,” Weihenmayer said. “It’s kind of lame to show up to climb a mountain and not know anything about the country or the people of the place you’re climbing in.”
During his time in Nepal, Weihenmayer met Lhakpa and Tashi Sherpa, who travel to Winter Park every summer to sell their jewelry in front of the Mountain Rose Café and at events in Hideaway Park.
He eventually adopted a Nepali son named Arjun.
Such a strong connection to a country comes with an acute awareness of the state of things there, and in the case of a disaster, a hyper sensitivity to the suffering its people.
This year, a catastrophic earthquake devastated Nepal, killing thousands and plunging millions further into poverty.
Weihenmayer will come to Grand County on Thursday, Sept. 3, to speak for a fundraising event for Nepal in Fraser.
Weihenmayer said he was overwhelmed at the news of the earthquake.
“The way I describe it is sometimes you start feeling helpless,” he said. “The Buddhists say humans are sometimes rocks in the river. The river just pounds them. You get impacted by these forces. You’re just a rock getting shaped by these catastrophic events.”
Roger and Michelle Hedlund and Peggy Smith are organizing the Sept. 3 event, which starts at 5 p.m. at the Rendezvous Tent on U.S. Highway 40 in Fraser.
Roger is a mountaineer and has climbed a number of peaks in Nepal including Ama Dablam and Cholatse.
He stayed with Lhakpa and Tashi during two of his four trips to Nepal.
Their village, near the base of Mount Everest, was hit especially hard during the earthquake. The local school was destroyed.
It was Lhakpa and Tashi who suggested contacting to Weihenmayer to help with the fundraiser.
“I’ve known Tashi since stopping by her teahouse in the year 2000,” Weihenmayer said. “She asked me to do this, and I’m happy to come up and do my part and probably eat some great Sherpa food and not only talk about the disaster and commiserate, but also celebrate that we can come together in a tragedy of this degree.”
Weihenmayer has climbed the Seven Summits —the highest point on each continent — descended the Grand Canyon in a kayak and graced the cover of Time Magazine. He founded and operates No Barriers, a nonprofit that empowers children, the disabled and veterans “to find their inner purpose and contribute their very best to the world.”
Weihenmayer is also an author and motivational speaker.
Roger said the event organizers are hoping to raise enough money to rebuild the school in Lhakpa and Tashi’s village and raise awareness about the continued plight of the Nepali people.
The event will include food and drinks and a silent auction.
Donations will be graciously accepted, Roger said.
Roger thanked Rendezvous for providing the venue for the event, Wild Horse Inn for providing food, the Ditch for providing beer, Winter Park Winery for providing wine and Turner Productions for providing the sound system. Roger also thanked Barry and Debbie Young for helping organize the event.
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