After Everest summit, deaf climbers head to Tahoe
GLENBROOK, Nev. — Scott Lehmann and Shayna Unger have a special connection with the mountains and to one another.
While most mountaineers depend on their voices and ears to communicate when climbing in some of the harshest places on the planet, Scott Lehmann and Shayna Unger have taken a different route to reach the top of the world.
Lehmann and Unger were born deaf. The two would meet as teenagers while attending the same school for the deaf and have since been inseparable. Both earned master’s degrees and now work as educators, however, it’s their sense of adventure outside the classroom that makes the duo truly unique.
In 2012 while on a road trip, Lehmann and a group of friends decided to climb Mount Rainier. None had any mountaineering experience, and as the group struggled toward the top, shivering and not knowing how to use their equipment, they gave up less than 1,500 vertical feet from the summit. The experience, however, inspired Lehmann, and without classes available in American Sign Language and no deaf guides he could lean on for knowledge, he dove head on into learning the ins and outs of mountaineering. Online videos from YouTube was a resource he leaned heavily on and during climbs, Lehmann would often would bring a pen and paper so he could pick the brains of other mountaineers he encountered along the way.
Soon, Unger became interested in Lehmann’s newfound passion and despite having no experience either, was eager to join in as a climbing partner.
Three years after Lehmann was turned back on Mount Rainier, the two summited the tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. Then in 2020, they became the first all-deaf team to summit Aconcagua in South America. A year later, the two became the first all-deaf team to summit North America’s tallest peak, Denali.
The duo made more history last June when they summited Mount Everest and then the world’s fourth tallest peak, Lhotse, the following day. By summiting Everest, Unger became the first deaf woman to reach the top of the highest mountain in the world while Lehmann became the first deaf American to summit Everest. They are also the third and fourth deaf climbers to reach the top of Everest, and first deaf couple to scale both Everest and Lhotse in a season.
Since making history in the Himalayas, the two have been on a nationwide tour, and on Friday, Oct. 6, will be in Lake Tahoe. Lehmann and Unger are scheduled to make an appearance at GearLab in Glenbrook to share their experience and offer demos on gear and equipment. The event, produced by Tahoe Family Hearing Clinic, will run from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be about sharing their experiences as deaf mountain climbers, and everything that they endured leading up to, during, and post their summit of Everest,” said Rob Sandy, office manager at Tahoe Family Hearing Clinic. “They’ll be talking about gear, demonstrations, and kind of a day in the life.”
The two-hour event is free. Registration can be done at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/deaf-climbers-summit-everest-tickets-722335734627.
Going forward, Lehmann and Unger are aiming to become the first deaf people to summit the tallest peak on all seven continents.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of the Tribune.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.