Teaching Teamwork With ‘The Blind Climber’

We don’t often hang out with famous mountain climbers or Hollywood stars, but we had the opportunity to do both recently, while simultaneously doing what we love to do every day: teach people about the importance of teamwork.  We recently partnered with The Verizon Foundation and its Educational Resource website – www.thinkfinity.org – to provide a team building challenge course for their annual Educational Technology conference in Washington, DC.  Erik Weihenmayer – “The Blind Climber” – and actor Eric Close, from the TV show “Without a Trace,” were presenting at the conference, and we were asked to join them to provide some activities that illustrate the challenges Erik faced while climbing Mt. Everest, and use his stories as a metaphor for teaching teamwork.

Part of Weihenmayer’s talk focused on the challenge of walking across ladders that spanned huge crevasses at Mt. Everest and the teamwork that it took to get from one side to the other – without the luxury of sight. In order to better illustrate this challenge, Erik had us harness, short-rope, and blindfold three volunteers (one of whom was the actor and fellow keynote speaker Eric Close) and then asked another volunteer to lead the team across a horizontally supported ladder, using only her voice.  This team had it a little easier than Erik did in real life because not only did they crawl across the ladder, rather than walk across with crampons, but they also didn’t have a bottomless crevasse to worry about.  Even so, the activity still presented a challenge.  The “climbers” struggled to follow the leader’s instructions, while the leader found it difficult to give proper direction to people without eyesight.  In the end, the volunteers found it a unique experience to take part in an activity that resembled the life-changing trek described by Erik Weihenmayer

We can’t wait to share the the video and photos with you. We’ll upload them as soon as we receive them.