navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies United States History
feature logo Weekly Reader ® Current Events

Top of the World

For mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer, one of the hardest parts of climbing Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, was leaping over crevasses. A crevasse is a deep crack in a glacier, a huge sheet of moving ice.

“I never got used to these four- or five-foot crevasses that are hundreds of feet deep,” said Weihenmayer. “You had to jump across them. You have to be very careful when you land.”

For most climbers, jumping over a crevasse is hard enough. But for Weihenmayer, jumping over the cracks was particularly hard because he is blind.

On May 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmayer was the first blind climber to reach the peak of Mount Everest. He was part of a team of climbers that was sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind.

Mount Everest is 29,035 feet tall and sits on the border between Nepal and China, two countries in Asia. According to many climbers, Mount Everest is one of the hardest and deadliest mountains in the world to climb because of the mountain's height.

Climbers can suffer from illnesses caused by many things, including the altitude. Altitude sickness occurs when a climber does not get enough oxygen.

The team took more than two months to complete the climb. Weihenmayer spent much of his time moving the team's supplies up the mountain to a base camp, which was located at 17,600 feet. The time spent moving gear helped Erik Weihenmayer get used to the altitude.

Weihenmayer, who had already climbed several of the world's highest peaks, had help getting up Mount Everest. “[People] would walk ahead of me with a bell,” he said. “I tried to stay in their footsteps. I tried to stay [close] behind them so I could hear their steps, and I stepped into those places.”

When he got to the top of Mount Everest, Weihenmayer stopped to think about his accomplishment. Climbing Mount Everest was the toughest but most rewarding experience of his life.