Sep 04, 2014 • By

What it’s like to kayak the Grand Canyon blind

Erik Weihenmayer has faced numerous barriers in his life and surpassed them.

As a blind adventurer, he’s emerged on the other side every time with the conviction that what’s within him is stronger than what’s standing in his way.

Since he went blind at the age of 13, Weihenmayer has felt a deep connection to nature, allowing it to guide him through his expeditions. He has climbed to the summits of the world’s seven highest peaks – and through No Barriers USA, which he co-founded, he’s helped others achieve their dreams, despite the odds.

On September 7, Weihenmayer, along with fellow blind adventurer Lonnie Bedwell, will begin a whitewater kayaking expedition that will take them down 277 miles of the often fiery Colorado River.

Together, they will be the first blind team to kayak through the Grand Canyon – a feat that rivals the technical challenges of climbing Mount Everest.

Weihenmayer will be supported by an experienced paddling team. The preparation for the expedition has been extensive, with both Weihenmayer and Bedwell spending the last several years training and developing innovative systems for kayaking rapids with support from high-tech radios and verbal commands from river guides.

“Learning to whitewater kayak has been one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever taken on and this trip through the Grand Canyon will be my most physically and emotionally grueling feat,” says Weihenmayer. “A typical day of kayak training includes getting flipped in rapids, hitting rocks sideways, and sometimes taking long unpleasant swims. I hope that when others hear about two blind kayakers paddling the mighty Colorado River, they might be inspired that a No Barriers Life is possible for anyone.”


The trip will begin September 7 at Lee’s Ferry, nine miles south of the Arizona-Utah border. The team expects to complete the expedition on or around September 28 at Pearce Ferry, the boundary between the Grand Canyon and Lake Meade.

It’s Nature Valley’s belief that experiencing nature enables people to feel most alive.

The brand is partnering with Weihenmayer and Bedwell to encourage one million people to Get Out There and sign the No Barriers Pledge and make this the year that they overcome whatever is standing in their way to get out there, no matter how big or small.


Our team originally decided to partner with Weihenmayer on a series of television and digital advertisements, but our missions and passions so clearly aligned so we decided to extend our partnership beyond the TV spot.

“We are so inspired by Erik Weihenmeyer’s story and the passion, determination and commitment he brings to everything he does,” says Kerry DeLaney, marketing manager for Nature Valley. “We hope our support of his overall mission and journey along the Colorado River this month will help encourage one million people to take the No Barriers Pledge and live the No Barriers mindset.”

Follow along on the adventure at You also can see more interviews with Erik on Nature Valley’s YouTube channel.

Editor’s note: Learn more about Weihenmayer in “Blind Adventurer Stars in Nature Valley Ad,” in Advertising Age.