Last weekend Erik Weihenmayer, the famous blind adventurer who has summited the highest peak on each of the seven continents, held a fund-raising “Dinner in the Dark” and auction at the Hotel Madeline at Telluride’s Mountain Village in Colorado. CMH Summer Adventures generously donated an auction item, a deluxe trip for two to either the Bobbie Burns or the Bugaboos in the wilds of Western Canada during the summer of 2013.
Proceeds from the event go to support No Barriers, a non-profit organization that helps handicapped individuals, including soldiers injured in recent conflict, get out and experience life-affirming adventures ranging from skiing, to climbing, to hiking and mountain biking.
I attended the event to present the CMH Summer Adventure; little did I know that Dinner in the Dark with Erik would be the most powerful dining experience I’ve ever had.
To begin, we were led by our hosts, some of whom were blind themselves, into a dark room. And I mean dark. The kind of darkness where you can’t see your hand in front of your face.
Instantly, all of my trust landed squarely on the shoulder of the person in front of me. This woman, who a mintue earlier was was a total stranger, became my best friend. My hand on her shoulder became my eyes. I became aware of the texture of her shirt, of the sounds of other guests finding their tables around us, the sensation of man behind me gripping my shoulder harder as we walked slowly into the blackness of the dining room. Finding our seats went surprisingly smoothly, and soon we were all exploring the plate of savory food layed out in front of each of us.
Erik announced the menu, a selection of foods to stimulate both taste and touch. Sushi rolls, lamb chops, salad and scallops were arranged carefully on everyone’s plate. A glass of wine was within reach.
Fingers quickly became the utensil of choice and my napkin quickly became messier than my plate. I tried using my fork, but after three empty forks in a row, I went back to using my fingers.
“I think I’m using my skirt as a napkin.” said one woman.
“I think I’m using your skirt as a napkin too!” joked the man sitting next to her.
Dinner conversation proceeded happily, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. After everyone had time to eat, the lights came on on slowly and we all looked around, blinking and enjoying our restored vision. A few glasses of wine had been spilled, but nobody was complaining. It was the kind of experience we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.
“For you, that was Dinner in the Dark,” said Erik, “For me it was just dinner.”
Then he went on to give a riveting presentation of his experiences and insight into people breaking their own barriers. Soldiers who had lost most of all their limbs exploring the wilderness, paraplegics climbing big walls, Erik climbing the Seven Summits and kayaking - all accompanied by Erik’s brilliant and humorous narration.
Perhaps it was the mood of the audience after Dinner in the Dark. Perhaps it was the spectacular setting of Telluride, Colorado. Or perhaps it was the promise of a CMH Summer Adventure giving people a chance to have a wilderness experience that is comfortable while being adventurous, remote while being accessible, and as thrilling or as relaxing as you want it to be. Whatever the reason, the CMH Summer Adventure raised more money for No Barriers than anything else on the auction list.
In the end I was struck by the feeling that mountain adventure gives each person just exactly the right experience. For Erik, it gave him a chance to live life to its fullest and help others to do the same. For guests of CMH Summer Adventures it gives them a chance to be in the heart of the wilderness without the commitment or fitness required for most remote mountain adventures.
Here at CMH Summer Adventures we're honored to have been invited to be a part of the No Barriers program, and excited to host the auction winners at the Bobbie Burns Lodge or the Bugaboo Lodge this coming summer.
Photos of Telluride, Colorado in the light, and the Bugaboos, British Columbia in the dark by Topher Donahue.