“We Overcame The Odds.” Deaf Couple Takes On Mount Everest — And Makes History!

Scott and Shayna raise their arms in the air in celebration on the summit of Mount Everest.

A countless number of things can go wrong when climbing any mountain, much less Mount Everest. But that didn’t stop Scott Lehmann and Shayna Unger from becoming the third and fourth Deaf people in the world to pull off this incredible feat.

This isn’t the first adventure this couple, who met at the Maryland School for the Deaf when they were teenagers, have gone on together – and it certainly won’t be their last! But where did their passion for mountain climbing start? For Scott, it began when some of his friends, who are also Deaf, tried to take climbing lessons near Mount Rainier in Washington State.

It was 2023, and Scott had recently graduated from college. When they arrived for their lessons, they were told that they would have to pay for both an American Sign Language interpreter to accompany them and the liability insurance needed to cover said interpreter. Scott and his friends declined.

Instead, they attempted to go on their own… but failed. Still, Scott uncovered a love for climbing.

“I went to YouTube and I tried to learn as much as I could,” he says. “It was a very long, hard journey.”

Then, in 2015, Shayna caught the climbing bug when Scott suggested they take on Mount Kilimanjaro together. At 19,341 feet, it’s Africa’s highest peak.

“I really enjoyed it,” Shayna said. “And we just kept climbing. We enjoy finding these remote places and adventures. I think that helped us kind of fall in love together.”

Now, Scott and Shayna are on a mission. Since leaving their jobs at the Maryland School for the Deaf last year, they’ve managed to get funding from sponsors in order to train full-time to take on Everest.

This trek is just one step in their larger goal to become the first Deaf people to climb the highest mountains in every continent in the world, also called the Seven Summits.

With three ascents already complete, they aimed for Everest to be their fourth. Despite their experience, they knew pulling off this feat would not be easy. Still, with the support of the Deaf community, who greatly admire this inspiring couple, and the help of Sherpas, they knew it was possible.

Speaking of which, to ensure communication went smoothly with them and their Sherpa guides, Scott and Shayna taught them ASL phrases in the weeks before their climb. This proved to be life-saving when Scott’s mask filled with ice, inhibiting his breathing.

Thankfully, Scott was able to swiftly communicate with a Sherpa who lent their own mask while they fixed Scott’s.

Wanting to inspire others, Scott and Shayna shared their journey on Instagram, often giving insights into what it’s like to take breaks at base camps.

Finally, after a grueling 24 hours, Scott and Shayna accomplished their mission on May 23, 2023 at 6 a.m.

“There’s a lot of different barriers we had to go through to get to Everest, so when we reached the top we felt like, we overcame the odds,” said Scott. “We were really proud of ourselves.”

“It was the most rewarding feeling in the world,” Shayna said. “It was just really a blessing.”

In that moment, Scott became the first Deaf American to reach the summit of Mount Everest while Shayna became the first Deaf woman in the world to do so.

“With the right attitude and the right adjustments, (the outdoors) is available for Deaf and hard of hearing people,” she said. “It’s available for people with disabilities.”

With three more mountains to climb in order to conquer the Seven Summits, Scott and Shayna look forward to taking on their next challenge – once they properly celebrate their latest one, of course. And, in doing so, they hope to inspire Deaf kids around the world.

“It’s more about the whole entire journey that it takes to get there,” Shayna said.

Share this story to congratulate Scott and Shayna on their historical climb.

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here!

Want to be happier in just 5 minutes a day? Sign up for Morning Smile and join over 455,000+ people who start each day with good news.