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Could You Climb Mount Everest Blindfolded? The Story Of Andy  Holzer

Image adapted from original by Papa Lima Whiskey 28,848 meters high, Mount Everest is the dream of every climber. Climbing Everest sounds like an impossible challenge for amateur mountaineers and hikers, but not for Andy Holzer. Although many have now summited Everest, Andy is one of the only two people who have made it to the top facing the hardest challenge: he is blind. Andy reached the summit in May 2017, but, as things stand, a ban on people with disabilities like blindness would bar him from climbing the mountain again.

Andy’s story

When we talk Everest and world records, Andy Holzer’s name stands out. On the 21st of May 2017, Andy completed the greatest of challenges for any climber: he reached the top of Mount Everest, together with his friends Wolfgang Klocker and Klemens Bichler.

He wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to get to the top of Everest – 4,833 people have now succeeded – but for the second time in history, a blind person has made it to the summit. Second only to Erik Weihenmayer, who climbed the mountain on the south side, Andy is the second blind mountaineer to conquer the top and the first one to do so on the north side.

Blind since birth, Andy has always pushed his boundaries and has never let his disability stop him. On his third attempt at climbing Everest, he has succeeded and has become a source of inspiration for fellow disabled mountaineers.

During an interview preceding the last expedition, Andy admitted his life has been constantly preparing him for further challenges. Andy isn’t new to success: before tackling Everest for the third time, he had already reached six of the Seven Summits and he even has plans to return to Everest in 2019.

Nepal’s ban

However, Andy’s plans might be threatened by a new law introducing a ban on people “unfit for climbing”. Following the announcements made by many disabled climbers that they intended to tackle the mountain in 2018, Nepal’s government has decided to implement new restrictions which would bar solo mountaineers and disabled mountaineers from climbing Mt. Everest. Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has justified its decision as a step towards making Everest safer.

Flickr | Gunther HagleitnerBut many, like Andy Holzer himself, are sceptical and have accused the government of having a different reason behind the move. They claim that rather than being concerned with climbers’ safety, the government’s agenda follows a purely economic perspective. And as Andy rightly points out, if Nepal’s government had analysed the statistics fully, it would have realized that incidents seldom involve experienced climbers. Rather, inexperienced tourists and ‘wannabe’ climbers are the main victims of inefficient safety measures. The latter are brought to Everest by tourist agencies that have no concern for the actual experience of the travellers - but the larger the group the more money it brings. Meanwhile climbers or disabled, experienced mountaineers bring their own equipment and do not need aid.

Climbing Everest has indeed become a mainstream adventure and figures show that far too many are trying to climb the mountain. Unqualified Sherpa guides and decreasing costs are causing dangerous overcrowding as well as littering. Whether Nepal’s restriction over climbing Everest is legitimate or money driven, it is undeniable that making expeditions safer is a number one priority. However, it is up for discussion whether or not Nepal’s government has addressed the right source of the issue.

By Erika Mastrorosa - Online Journalism Intern

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