Austrian mountain climber Andy Holzer, who was blind since birth, was the second blind man to summit Mount Everest on the highest mountain in the world (summited on May 21, 2017), and the first to succeed on the northern route. His extraordinary accomplishments have gained him worldwide acclaim and was considered one of the greatest moments in Everest history. Since then, he’s been using his incredible spirit to inspire others to live a life with no barriers.
You often say that in many ways, the outdoors is the greatest laboratory we have on earth. What do you seek when you go for a climb?
I have two personalities. One is Andy Holzer the blind climber, a man with bones and muscles, functions, reactions and a nerve centre. Then there’s the other Andy Holzer who is made of philosophy and spirit. I always want to check out if both the Andy Holzers are connected. This is the only reason why I go out to climb because I search for the true answer. Of course, a lot of answers or feedback you get is from the community, from friends and others and everybody keeps giving you answers. But the true feedback is coming from the wilderness because the mountains do not know you are blind or anything else. They are the mirror of what you are doing and what you are thinking. You get a 100% one-to-one feedback, and this is what I am expecting in my mountain climbing.
What challenges did you face while climbing Mount Everest?
One of the major challenges I felt was the scarcity of water during the ascent. As a blind person, I needed much more water because of the higher number of steps I needed to take coupled with newness of the terrain. Add that to processing information at 8000 metres, it becomes very challenging. Also, on the lower sections of the Everest, there were big stones and crevasses, which were unstable and walking on it was almost like playing Russian roulette. However, it was something I knew I had to overcome.
What type of technology did you use for this climb?
The lesser [technology] the better. Too much information is bad because it uses too much brain power. Often, in chaotic situations where I’m supported by my friends, it is my hand on his shoulder that guides me to take the next step. The movement of the shoulder becomes the mirror of the ground.
I learned in the beginning of my life that blindness is nothing special. Usually, people with sight adjust to our blind world but I did the opposite. Very early in life, I made myself step out of barriers rather than waiting for others to make a world without barriers for me. I do not have a walkie-talkie or someone guiding my every step. This is the secret of my success – I am always adapting to the world around me and not expecting the world to adapt to me.
In August 2018, Andy Holzer launched his second book (in German), Mein Everest – Blind nach ganz oben (Blind to the top).