Dugger, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Climbing the world’s tallest mountain is a steep goal, but climbing it when you are blind is an even rockier challenge.
“I’m a little nervous, but I’m truly trying to stay as emotionally neutral as I can,” said Lonnie Bedwell, of Wabash Valley, Indiana.
This adventurer is quite familiar with controlling his nerves. He has kayaked the rapids of the Colorado River. And even climbed Mount Denali, the highest peak in the U.S.
But even though Bedwell, who lost his sight in a hunting accident in 1997, likes to push his limits, climbing Mount Everest was never really on his radar.
“I truly didn’t have a desire to do it to begin with,” said Bedwell, laughing.
But then, he received two phone calls: One from another climber and the other from the Blind Veterans Association, which asked him to be a voice and encourage other disabled veterans.
“We’re hoping to truly let people believe in themselves and each other and what’s really possible out there and expand the limits of what people consider disabled,” Bedwell said.
So Bedwell, who served in the Navy for nine years and then the Army National Guard, has been preparing. For nine months, he worked out often several hours a day, six days a week. He ran, used a stair climber that he got from the VA, rode an indoor bike, and used a climbing machine.
“And then I spend lots of time doing burpees and squats, squats, squats,” Bedwell laughed again.
And now, he’s conquering his biggest challenge yet. He started his climb on April 6 along with a group of climbers and a sighted guide.
He’s also reminding others — with or without disabilities — that they can do the same.
“You can still do so much more than you think you can,” said Bedwell. “And life is still worth living, and go out and do it.”
Bedwell’s journey is being chronicled on Facebook and Sightless Summits. Information from his personal tracking device is also available for those who want to see his progress in real-time.