How He Survived: At the Summit of Mount Everest, Alone and Blind
By SCN Blog Contributor Maimah Karmo
This post was previously posted on The Huffington Post Blog
Brian Dickinson’s story is an incredible journey of how one man’s blind faith has enabled him to scale mountains – from Everest, to the Appalachian, the Andes and the Himalayas. Filled with wanderlust, Brian’s adventures took him around the world. In 2011, he found himself alone and blind at 29,000 feet, at the summit of Mount Everest. Brian shared with me what he thinks are life’s greatest gifts.
MK: Where did your spirit of adventure come from?
BD: Nothing has ever come easy to me – I’ve had to work hard to create opportunities, which makes me appreciate them more, leading to a natural joy in living. I grew up in the Rogue Valley of southern Oregon and found adventures in the local mountains and rivers. Adventure was embedded in my soul and it’s where I truly find fulfillment.
MK: Tell me about being alone and blind at 29,000 feet at the summit of Mount Everest.
BD: After soloing the summit in 2011 and experiencing a goggle malfunction, I found myself in an almost impossible scenario – I lost my eyesight. Even though it was an impossible situation, and I was running out of oxygen, without panicking or over-thinking, I started making my way down the mountain, with faith and focus. I felt the presence of God, so I didn’t feel alone.
MK: You’ve climbed many mountains, including Everest, Island Peak, Aconcagua, Patagonia, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Kosciusko, Vinson Massif (Antarctica), Cascades, Waddington Range, Alaska Range, Canadian Rockies, Smokies, Sierra, White Mountains, Appalachian, Andes and the Himalayans. What do these climbs give you?
BD: I’ve enjoyed climbing mountains since I was a young boy. The process from start to finish inspires me to seek new mountains to climb. I research interesting locations and set a goal with realistic timelines. Depending on the peak, I adjust my training regimen to ensure I’m in top physical, mental and spiritual shape to lead the climb. The actual climb is where all the components come together. At that point, I’ve done all I can do within my control and it’s about calculating risks, making good decisions and creating the safest climbing experience as possible. Many climbs end without a summit and that’s fine. It’s not about standing on top, but about successfully getting back to the bottom. Each climb brings a unique perspective and lasting memories with the people I climb with.
MK: How do your spiritual beliefs influence your work?
BD: Jesus is my guide. I wouldn’t be alive today without faith and the miracle I experienced on my descent of Mount Everest. As a quiet person, it’s been a big change for me to be able to share my journey in a large platform through my book, “Blind Descent”, and the media. It’s humbling use my survival as an example to inspire others to get past obstacles in their lives.
MK: You were also in the military, as a U.S. Navy Air Rescue Swimmer and you worked in Combat Search and Rescue. What was that part of your life like?
Serving in the U.S. Navy elevated my life to a degree that I never thought possible. Air Rescue Swimmer training is very intense, with a high attrition rate. Every day was tougher than the previous one, but each day we learned to stay calm during scenarios in order to save lives. I went through aircrew, Air Rescue Swimmer, SERE, Land and water survival training, plus two tours in the Persian Gulf (Operation Southern Watch), which helped create a foundation of mental toughness for what was to come in my future mountaineering ventures.
MK: What are the three things your soul must accomplish in this lifetime?
BD: 1) To live with purpose – this is our greatest gift, to understand our purpose and to live to our fullest potential. 2) To raise my children to be un-entitled, hardworking, confident, empathetic, to ignore societal labels and to love God. We experience life lessons and learn from our mistakes that we have to continually improve with each new generation. 3) To save lives. We have a short time in this world. I want to use every opportunity to recognize and help others.
MK: What advice do you have for others facing challenges or who might be afraid to step into their dreams?
BD: When situations paralyze us, we must find the courage to be fearless in the moment. Also, most people dream big but don’t follow through on their dreams. They place barriers in their way that keep them stagnant. My advice is to create a plan, map out a timeline and execute the plan. Things come together as you start walking into your dream.
MK: What’s next for Brian?
BD: I’m busy with speaking, working, being a husband and father, climbing, and coaching my children’s’ soccer teams. My wife, JoAnna, and I are developing an eight-week marriage series called “Climbing the Everest of Marriage”. Also, each year I set personal and family ‘adventure’ goals. These are important to our growth because they allow us to gain vital experiences and perspective.
MK: How do you “live bliss”?
BD: By experiencing this amazing world. Whether it’s alone high on a mountain in the Himalayas or trekking with my family in Australia, I revel in creating moments of peace and happiness, moments that cleanse my soul.
Follow Brian on Twitter Also, visit Brian’s website to learn about his work as a Motivational Speaker, Adventurer, former US Navy Air Rescue Swimmer, or to grab a copy of his best-seller, “Blind Descent”. Also, watch Brian’s interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper.
Until next time, live bliss, pursue your passion and manifest magic! To be a guest on my Pure Bliss podcast or get coaching on how to Manifest Your Magic, contact me here!
Much love, Bliss Boss, Maimah.