Visually impaired mountaineer, Jill Wheatley’s perspective on climbing the world’s 14 peaks that stand above 8000 meters is a gift of her surviving a traumatic brain injury
While the Spring season tends to draw the eyes of the mountaineering world towards the highest peak on the planet, within the shadows of Everest, Canadian mountaineer, Jill Wheatley had a vision focused on something even more prominent. The visually impaired climber summited Kanchenjunga 8586 meters, the world’s 3rd highest peak on May 7. Last month, she climbed atop the fifth tallest, Dhaulagiri 8167 mt yet in between, she was part of a team that got off track and despite being within a hundred vertical meters of the summit had to return to high camp and eventually begin again from 5600 mt a handful of days later. Essentially three, 8000ers within 3 weeks, nothing compared to what came in the wake of her traumatic brain injury.
All part of a personal project, Vision 8000, Wheatley is currently on her way to Makalu, a technical climb that stands at 8463 mt. While climbing all of the world’s 14 peaks that stand above 8000 mt, Wheatley aims to break down the stigma associated with traumatic brain injury, vision loss, and eating disorders, all of which are part of her story following an accident in 2014.
From autonomous ex-pat racing bikes throughout the European alps to the back of an ambulance racing down the autobahn, intensive care to a wheelchair, Wheatley survived a surreal sports accident in Bavaria while working as a Health, Sport Science, and Physical Education teacher. A traumatic brain injury, 70 % loss of vision, and a life-threatening eating disorder led her on an expedition of survival across 7 hospitals and rehabilitation centers in three countries. Struggling with a mountainous sense of loss, Wheatley retreated to the mountains after being released from the hospital. Finding serendipity in her story, Wheatley now thrives on helping others find light in the darkness.
With Manaslu (8163 m), the world’s 8th highest climbed in autumn 2021, Makalu will be Wheatley’s 4th of the 14 peaks that stand above 8000 mt. Shining light on the power of perspective and possibility, later this month, Jill will be on her way to Pakistan to climb K2 (8611 m), Broad Peak (8047m), and Nanga Parbat (8125 m) before returning to Nepal for Cho Oyu (8201 m) in autumn.
For more of Wheatley’s story, details of Vision 8000, and how you can support the project: http://mountainsofmymind.com/vision-8000/
Photos courtesy: mountainsofmymind.com/ Jill Wheatley