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 Erik Weihenmayer Heads For Elbrus: His Sixth Summit

The Today Show Sends Him Off With Warm Wishes

Erik Targets 10,000’ Ski Descent

Mothers’ Day Special Replays June 23

Erik Weihenmayer, former schoolteacher and wrestling coach from Golden, Colorado, leaves today with 7 members of his 2001 Everest team for Mt. Elbrus, hoping to make it his 6th continental summit. Elbrus, situated between the Black and Caspian Seas in the Caucasus Mountains, stands at 18,513’ as the watchtower between the steppes of Russia on its north and Azerbaydzani, Georgia and Armenia on its south. Regrettably, the area is best known today for the political turmoil which exists nearby in Georgia and Chechnya. The Today Show has followed Erik’s adventures beginning with McKinley in 1995. Ann Curry, whose rock climb with Erik several years ago was featured on the show, interviewed Erik "live" from Denver yesterday as he was making final preparations for his climb.

The team flies via Moscow to Mineral Vody, a small town in the south of Russia. A bus ride, hike and tram later, and the team arrives June 8 at one of the most unique campsites in the world: the barrels, at 8000’, which are old oil tanks re-fitted with rudimentary furniture and electricity by the Russians, and which will serve as sleeping quarters and base camp for the expedition.

Elbrus, a snow dome covered with glaciers, is appropriately called Little Antarctica. Its severe weather combined with ice and snow to the summit will test even these Everest climbers, who will then attempt a ski descent from the summit back to base camp. Erik has been training throughout the winter and spring with Elbrus teammates in preparation for skiing this 10,000’ steep slope. Erik would be the first blind skier to complete this run.

The Allegra-NFB 2002 Elbrus Expedition can be followed on EverestNews.com The climb is being sponsored by Allegra and the National Federation of the Blind, sponsors of the record-setting Everest Expedition in 2001. The anticipated summit date is June 14 or 15.

A successful Elbrus ascent will move Erik one step closer to his dream of climbing the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. He would join 100 elite mountaineers worldwide who have reached that milestone. Erik’s plan is to climb Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, the Oceania summit, his 7th and final, in September. This would realize a dream which began on June 23, 1995, Helen Keller’s birthday, when he reached the summit of McKinley.

Between these two expeditions, Erik will tour 9 Air Force bases in Europe, in July, spreading his uplifting message both to military personnel and to students on the bases, and thanking them for their service to the cause of freedom and democracy around the world. On June 29, Erik will be honored with a Victor Award, on the longest-running sports award show on TV (FOX).

Accompanying Erik to Elbrus will be Everest teammates Eric Alexander, who will "call " for Erik on his ski descent; Gavin Attwood, training partner; Luis Benitez and Chris Morris, expedition leaders; Kevin Cherilla, Everest Base Camp manager, Didrik Johnck, Everest and now Elbrus photographer, whose photo of Erik made the cover of Time Magazine; and Michael Brown and Kim Johnson, cinematographers whose Everest documentary just played at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival and is expected to air on TV soon.

Apple Pie, the Mothers’ Day Special which received accolades for its sensitive portrayal of the impact of mothers on their famous athletic sons and daughters, will replay on ESPN2 on Sunday, June 23, at 4 p.m. EDT. Erik’s segment, which runs 5th among 9 sports figures including Shaq, Mia Hamm, Grant Hill and Brandi Chastain, was enthusiastically praised by critics. It is a wonderful tribute to his deceased mom, and is definitely worth watching.

Stay tuned for more!

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