Weihenmayer, blind by the age of 13, climbed the highest peak on all seven continents by the age of 33.
Although his extraordinary accomplishments have been showcased everywhere from the cover of Time magazine to the “Today” show, he appealed in his speech to the “mountain of pessimism” that anyone might feel when faced with adversity.
Weihenmayer, author of “Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man’s Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See,” learned about adversity before he made his last of the seven climbs.
Preparing to climb Mount Everest in 2001, he received a letter from Jon Krakauer, author of “Into Thin Air,” trying to convince Weihenmayer not to make the dangerous climb.
In addition, Weihenmayer said, an article was published in Men’s Journal arguing that he would be a liability to the rest of his team.
“There are always going to be people who don’t believe in you,” he told the crowd of students, parents and guests, many of whom came from Atlanta to hear the speech.
“It takes courage to reach beyond convention. There are numerous ways to climb a mountain.”
Weihenmayer, who grew up in Connecticut, showed pictures and video footage from his Everest climb, sharing stories and often eliciting laughs from the audience.
Using his blindness as a metaphor, Weihenmayer described life as “constantly reaching into the darkness — knowing there are no guarantees, knowing there’s absolutely no turning back.”
Audience member Jennifer Minge of Alpharetta, who graduated from Darlington in 1980, appreciated the speech because she has done a little adventuring herself.
Minge climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa last year and Asia’s Mount Elbrus this August. She hopes to make it up all seven highest peaks, capping it off with an Everest climb in 2007.
Minge was excited to attend Weihenmayer’s presentation at her alma mater because it prepared her for the mountains she plans to climb in the future.
It was easy to relate to Weihenmayer’s message because “it’s really what you want to accomplish,” she said. “Nobody’s going to carry you to the mountain. It depends solely on your desire.