Erik has become a celebrated and accomplished athlete despite losing his vision at the age of 13. Redefining what it means to be blind, Erik has transformed the image of blindness and opened up the minds of people around the world.
On May 25, 2001, Erik became the first blind climber in history to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest. In 2008, he reached the summit of Carstensz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea completing his quest for the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
Erik refuses to let blindness interfere with his passion for an exhilarating and fulfilling life and actively seeks opportunities to help others adopt a similar mindset. In 2004, Erik and his Everest teammates led a group of blind Tibetan teenagers to 21,000 feet on the north face of Everest as an educational outreach project. Their journey was documented in the film Blindsight. In 2010, Erik and his Everest team led the first Soldiers to Summits climb to the summit of Lobuche in the Himalayas, a quest documented in the film High Ground.
A former middle school teacher and wrestling coach, Erik is the author of Touch the Top of the World, The Adversity Advantage and most recently, No Barriers. He is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the prestigious National Courage Award and the ESPN ESPY award and was named as one of Men’s Journal’s “Top 25 Most Adventurous Men.”
Erik’s triumphs over some of the world’s most formidable mountains were fueling a growing aspiration to take the lessons he learned in the mountains to help others shatter barriers in their lives. To advance this idea, Erik co-founded not merely an organization, but rather a movement called No Barriers. The mission is to help people with challenges, all of us to some extent, to turn into the storm of life, face barriers head on, embrace a pioneering and innovative spirit and team up with great people to live rich in meaning and purpose. The motto is “What’s Within You is Stronger Than What’s in Your Way.”
Erik’s No Barriers message is instrumental in the formation of the No Barriers Life elements, the foundation of our transformative work with youth, veterans and people with all types of challenges.
In September 2014, he kayaked the entire 277-miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, an adventure that he has remarked to be the hardest and scariest thing he has ever done. Since then he has returned his focus to climbing, and continues to endeavor upon new adventures around the world.
Erik lives with his wife and two children in Colorado.