Q & A Erik Weihenmayer, 34, who became the first blind person to scale the highest peak on each of the seven continents, is about to cross another boundary by competing in the 400-mile Subaru Primal Quest adventure race, which starts Friday at Lake Ta

September 07, 2003

SI: What's it like preparing for a big adventure race?

EW: You're stepping into the darkness. You prepare like crazy,
and you surround yourself with people you trust, but it's still a
risk. No blind person's ever tried this. I could totally flop on
my face.

SI: You competed in the Arctic Team Challenge race in East
Greenland in July as practice for the Subaru Primal Quest. How
did it go?

EW: We didn't finish, but it gave me an appreciation of the
distance. One day [we did] a 26-mile hike across a boulder field.
I don't like to make excuses, but it wasn't the ideal terrain for
being blind.

SI: Are you worried about being the guy who slows down the team?

EW: Definitely. I'm a turtle. I don't want to let those guys
down, but I told them when we started, we're not going to be a
team that's going to win this race. We're going to be a team that
will finish this race.

SI: You've tried a device called BrainPort that helps a blind
person's perception.

EW: It's a camera attached to your head, and it sends a tactile
imagine to your tongue with electricity.

SI: So basically, you electrocute yourself?

EW: Well, it feels like that. You actually feel the shape on your
tongue. If a ball were rolling toward me, the ball would start on
the back of my tongue. This image of a ball would roll down my
tongue and get bigger. It's a very primitive way of seeing.

SI: You climb, paraglide, scuba dive and now adventure race. Is
there anything you can't do?

EW: I can't drive.