Blind Glenn Ellyn veteran climbs mountains

September 4, 2011 6:57:03 AM PDT
Although he grew up hiking and climbing, a local disabled veteran has reclaimed his passion without vision.

A self-described "adrenaline junkie," 26-year-old Glen Ellyn resident Steve Baskis continues to overcome challenges at any height and anywhere in the world.

At the YMCA of Northwestern DuPage County/B.R. Ryall, Baskis tried rock climbing for the first time. Confident about his ability to do it solo, he's conquered many more challenges.

"I can climb completely alone without the assistance of someone holding me or I'm holding them," Baskis said. "I'll just use two trekking polls and I'll shoot them out in front of my legs as I'm walking up the trails, and as the trail gets higher, I'll choke lower and when it gets too steep I'll just ditch my polls and I'm following someone with a bell."

Baskis continued: "Climbing is very tactile, I mean, I think it's a cool kind of sport for the blind if you're not impatient because you can get very frustrated on jumbled rock and uneven terrain."

Baskis become disabled in 2008.

"I was serving with the U.S. Army in Bagdad, Iraq, when an explosion basically went off on our right side and metal hit me in my head, my neck, my arms and legs in small pieces," Baskis said. "I'm visually impaired. I'm blind, no light perception. These are prosthetics and I have injuries, a number of different limbs my left arm is worst next to my vision."

He has traveled the world climbing various mountains.

"I've climbed in Mexico, Africa, central America and south west Asia, and I plan on climbing here and there as I get older," Baskis said. "I just recently came back from a trip to africa to tanzania africa we did a service project and we climbed Kilimanjaro."

He continued: "The highest mountain I climbed was its called Lobuche East -- it's in Nepal, up the Khumbu Valley towards Mount Everest. It's 8 miles from Mount Everest it was 20,075 feet."

Last year, Baskis was part of the Soldiers to the Summit.

"The whole trip was 25-day expedition. We moved slow to acclimate, so it was about 7 days, I think, to get to our base camp and then we spent probably three days on the mountain climbing in steps," Baskis said.

Erik Weihenmayer, a renowned blind climber, who was part of ABC's "Expedition Impossible", inspired Baskis to become part of the Soldiers to the Summit.

"A lot of people told me about Erik and a lot of other blind people -- there's a lot of blind people that do different things but Erik is definitely famous," Baskis said.

Baskis is hoping to be part of the Paralympics team.

"I originally was trying to make the U.S. Paralympics cycling team in tandem cycling for the 2012 games but I kind of got distracted with all the others things I've been doing, I shifted gears towards 2016," Baskis said.

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