Gerrard Gosens has spent the past two years preparing to climb the world's tallest peak, undaunted by the fact that he won't be able to see the view when he reaches the top. Gosens, 35, is aiming to become the second blind man to reach the Everest summit when he leaves Australia Friday for Nepal. A blind American, Erik Weihenmayer, scaled the peak in May 2001.
The Brisbane father of two, who works with the Royal Blind Foundation in Queensland state, said he was motivated by his family and inspired by a blind friend, Ched Towns, who had hoped to climb Everest but died on a neighbouring mountain from altitude sickness in 2000. Gosens said that while his wife was "fairly anxious" about his attempting to climb one of the world's most dangerous peaks, he was keen to make the trip to prove to his daughter, who is almost totally blind, that she need not let her condition limit her outlook on life.
"I have a daughter who is seven years of age who has only four percent of sight, and not only for her but for other kids... (I want) to show there's many opportunities out there," Gosens said. Gosens, who was born without irises and who also has glaucoma, will be assisted by two Sherpas in a climbing team of about 12. He is extremely fit, having competed in long-distance running events at the Atlanta and Sydney Paralympics, where he placed seventh in the marathon in 2000.
While he missed the Athens Games due to preparations for Everest, he has also run five times between Cairns and Brisbane. The distance of about 2,000 kilometres took about 13 days to run. Two years ago he went as high as 1,800 metres on Everest to see if he could handle altitude sickness and to prepare for his summit attempt. Gosens dismissed talk that his Everest campaign was an April Fools day joke. "I've done a lot of practical jokes. This is definitely not one," he said.
In 1988 Gosens appeared on the front page of a local newspaper with his guidedog Joey in a farcical story about how he was able to drive safely by listening to his dog's barked instructions. Gerrard Gosens leaves Australia Friday for Nepal.