Expedition Impossible - Behind the Scenes, Episode 4
by AFB Staff
[Editor's note: the following post originally appeared on Erik Weihenmayer's blog, http://www.touchthetop.com/blog/, and is being republished here with his permission. Among Erik's many notable achievements, he is a CareerConnect mentor as well as the first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. This summer Erik has been starring in ABC's Expedition Impossible. You can catch the show Thursday nights at 9 EST. Learn more about Erik at his website, http://www.touchthetop.com/.]
As you can imagine, Team No Limits was pretty psyched for the stage in the Atlas Mountains! Jeff and I both live around 5,500 feet so we barely even felt the altitude. Ike is the flatlander who lives in Kansas. But he had climbed a 20,000-foot peak in Nepal with us back in October so he didn't have much problem with the thin air either.
For those of you harshing on Chad and AJ, you might want to cut them some slack. Going from sea level to 10,000 feet and then racing isn't easy and not everyone acclimatizes the same; level of fitness has nothing to do with it. If you've never experienced altitude illness, it can be incredibly debilitating.
Our team pretty much hammered up the mountain and caught up with the Gypsies at the cage challenge. You can tell from what the producers have shown so far that ours is turning into a friendly rivalry. There was a lot of teasing going back and forth with the Gypsies kidding Jeff that he "throws like a girl" when he missed the cage a couple times. Naturally, he tossed jabs right back at them like the one you heard where he said, "you better knock me out with the first punch because I'm gonna come up swingin' for the fences."
While the climb was just a long grunt, the descent was downright treacherous. Fixed ropes were provided but they weren't really necessary. It was the deep, soft snow overtop of big rocks that caused a lot of problems. The Football Players were right behind us at that point so we were all pushing hard. Akbar nearly destroyed his knee on three occasions when he plunged through unexpectedly.
A lot of people were complaining about the food early on. One thing you learn on expeditions is you need to eat for calories instead of taste. Picky eaters are at a real disadvantage on any big endeavor. Typically teams were given a basket with things like corn, beans, sardines, canned fruit, bread, and a couple eggs. That night at the mountain camp, however, we were all treated to a Moroccan goat dinner that was roasted over the fire. So it was a nice treat to fuel up on protein and fat while we tried to dry our shoes and warm up by the bonfire.
As the episode showed, nobody slept well due to the cold and wind. We combined our tarp with the Gypsies, so we were rigged better than some of the others. But it was still pretty miserable with the tarp flapping just a foot above my face all night. And the wimpy sleeping bags didn't help either. This was where the inexperience of some of the other teams started to show through. Sure it was unpleasant but that's pretty much business as usual when you spend time in the mountains.
The next day, however, our team's inexperience cost us in the plow challenge. Since none of us are farmers, we didn't realize you were supposed to plow in the troughs and not on top of the humps! It took about ten rows of wasted effort before we finally realized our mistake.
After we crossed the finish line, David Salomni asked me if I wanted to say anything to my kids. Unfortunately my response didn't make the cut, "I want my kids to know, my Dad may be blind but he's the toughest dude in the world." Then I turned to Jeff and Ike and said, "Except for you guys of course."
It's a shame Expedition Impossible is currently losing the ratings war to Big Brother. But perhaps the next episode will change things. We will rappel 300 feet down a treacherous waterfall, wade waist-deep through a perilous river canyon, and master the Moroccan art of Henna. Suffice to say, it was really tough on me as the episode title indicates... "A Blind Man's Nightmare."
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