The First Adaptive Athletes Have Conquered Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls near Telluride, Colorado. Photo by Craig Stein /

Bridal Veil Falls near Telluride, Colorado. Photo by Craig Stein /

A Celebration of this Newly Reopened Ice Climbing Classic

February 12, 2009 - Telluride, Colorado - At over 360 feet Bridal Veil Falls is the tallest free falling waterfall in Colorado and arguably one of the most majestic and difficult ice climbs in the United States.

On a clear crisp February morning blind climber Erik Weihenmayer and climbing partner Chad Jukes, a below-the-knee amputee, geared-up in Telluride, Colorado to begin a snowshoe hike to the base of this classic landmark. Guided by veteran climber Mike Gibbs of Ouray, Colorado and accompanied by a host of cameramen, the team approached the falls which could still be heard from a distance as water cascaded over portions of the precipice.

“I could hear that big face moving in front of me. It was massively impressive,” said Weihenmayer. “Then getting on the ice was very cool. It had character. There was a lot of weaving and bobbing, which I love.”

Despite the loss of his vision at age thirteen, Erik Weihenmayer has become an accomplished athlete. While better recognized for his 2001 ascent of Mt. Everest, Erik has since climbed the remaining six of the tallest peaks on the world’s seven continents. He has scaled the 3,300-foot El Capitan and ice climbed the 3,000-foot Himalayan waterfall, Lhosar. Besides his extensive climbing resume, Erik has raced in expedition length multi-sport adventure races such as Primal Quest and most recently has been instrumental in the creation of the first adaptive/able bodied adventure race, The Real Deal.

“As a child there was no chance of playing baseball with the other kids,” said Erik Weihenmayer. “Until climbing I had no outlet. After climbing, the horizon was unlimited for me.” Erik continued, “Most people assume my favorite peak to be Everest but it is actually a mountain behind my house in Golden, Colorado where I first took my daughter and then my son whom we adopted from Tibet.

Iraq war veteran, Chad Jukes, was wounded when he encountered an improvised explosive device in 2007. Staff Sergeant Jukes was commanding an Army supply truck convoy. He had to make the difficult decision to either have his damaged foot and leg reconstructed or amputated. He chose below-the-knee amputation which enabled him to have more freedom to pursue his passion for rock and ice climbing, mountaineering, river rafting, and surfing.