Sightless Summits conquers Mt. Everest

Helping a courageous blind U.S. Navy veteran climb the world’s tallest mountain was a family affair for Keith Hill of Farragut, and his wife, Karen Millsaps Hill, who went to Mt. Everest Base Camp (just under 18,000 feet above sea level) in Nepal (April 2-22) to support their son, 2004 FHS graduate Bryan Hill (pictured left at Base Camp) and the friend he’s assisting, former Naval Petty Officer Lonnie Bedwell (center) from Indiana, as Bryan and Bedwell sought to conquer mighty Mt. Everest on behalf of a cause he and friend, Michael Neal (right), co-founded called Sightless Summits. Needing about 13.5 hours from Mt. Everest Camp 4, “the High Camp,” which itself is more than 23,000 feet above sea level, to reach the 29,032-foot summit, Bryan, Bedwell and Neal did so “at 6:10 our time this morning,” Monday, May 22, Keith said in a phone interview that evening.

“Our son’s text at 6:10 this morning read, ‘Standing on top of the world, Everest summit.’” They were joined by professional mountain guide Ryan Waters “and a guy from Canada” to reach as a group of five, Keith confirmed. Meanwhile, Bedwell became just “the fourth blind person to summit Everest,” Keith said. Still seeking to climb, Bryan, Bedwell, Neal and the group sought to reach the peak of an adjacent mountain, Lhotse, “which is the fourth highest mountain in the world (27,940),” Keith said about their climb Tuesday, May 23 (after deadline). If that attempt was successful, Bedwell “will be the only blind person to do both mountains on the same climb,” Keith said. “Lonnie is doing what he does for the Blinded Veterans Association. ... Not long ago he kayaked 225 miles through the Grand Canyon.” Bryan, Bedwell and Neal have climbed other high mountains worldwide

“in training for summiting Everest and Lhotse this year,” Keith said.

Photo courtesy of Karen Millsaps Hill and Keith Hill