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March 20, 2011

Quest of the 7 Summits

Erik Weihenmayer and three partners, all accomplished expeditioners, climbed up and then skied down 18,500-foot Mt. Elbrus in Russia. The team was outfitted with LOWA Struktura GTX AT boots -- the same boots used by the Marolt brothers to successfully ski Everest.

Mt. Elbrus was Erik's sixth expedition on his quest to conquer seven summits (the highest points on each continent). Last May the team set five new records on Mt. Everest.


And, oh, by the way... Erik is blind.

Notes from Elbrus, Russia - Summit #6
On June 6th we arrived in southern Russia, on the border of Georgia and Chechnya and then bussed 4 hrs to the base of Mt Elbrus. After spending a couple of days skiing and getting acclimated, we began our ascent.

The route went from 11,000 feet to 13,800 where we camped for a night. That next morning, June 13th, we went for the summit at 6 am in whiteout conditions.

We skinned as high as we could before we had to don our crampons on the blue glacier ice. The Structura Gortex boots were great for the ascent - very comfy. No one got blisters. All of us made it to the top but no one got much of a view (especially EW, but that's not why he climbs).

We then prepared for the descent, which meant 9,500 vertical feet of skiing. We experienced everything from blue ice to powder to heavy spring slush all in one long run. Upon return to the bottom we had great sunny views of the mountains around us. The boots performed beautifully. There were no major falls or incidents on either the ascent or descent. LOWA really helped us to reach our goal of the 6th of the 7 summits. The trip was a big success.

The Blind Climber Down Under - Mt. Kosciusko, Australia - Summit #7

Last month we again headed out for the last of our 7 summits. We traveled to Australia and skied up Mt Kosciusko, which is 7,316 ft. We left at 4 am on the 13th of September in hopes of reaching the summit for photos of the sunrise.

We started our journey up the slopes of the Thredbo Ski Resort battling darkness, rain, glare ice and 60mph winds in a whiteout to reach this "easy" summit.

It took us 4 hours to make it to the top and only about an hour to ski back to the lodge for a nice "breaky". We needed no crampons, as we skied all the way up and down. The LOWA Struktura GTX AT boots were great, no blisters but a few exciting falls as we climbed up the icy slopes in the dark. We again had some spectacular spring skiing - only this time in September.

ABOUT THE EXPEDITION
Blind mountain climber, Erik Weihenmayer embarked this September on the final leg of his historic Seven Summits quest with the support and sponsorship of Allegra®, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and LOWA Boots - among others.


Weihenmayer successfully made it to the summit of Mt. Kosciuszko (kos-key-u-sko) - the tallest peak in Australia - standing at 7,316 ft.

Weihenmayer joins an elite group of approximately 100 athletes, including 30 Americans, who have climbed the Seven Summits - the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents.


THE SEVEN SUMMITS
Climbing the Seven Summits is the ultimate accomplishment for a climber and is comparable to winning the Grand Slam in tennis. The Seven Summits include:

  1. Everest (29,029 ft.)
  2. Aconcagua (22,840 ft.)
  3. Denali/Mt. McKinley (20,320 ft.)
  4. Kilimanjaro (19,339 ft.)
  5. Elbrus (18,510 ft.)
  6. Vinson Massif (16,067 ft.)
  7. Mt. Kosciuszko (7,316 ft.).
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