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Ross Watson holds a degree in community and outdoor recreation, which combine his passion for the outdoors with his strong social conscience.

Ross learned from an early age to not only face down adversity, but to also use it to his advantage. When he was 10 years old he lost sight in his right eye in a pellet gun accident. Two years later, complications from the accident took the sight from his left eye as well, rendering him completely blind.

Instead of thinking of his blindness as a barrier to a happy childhood, Ross opened his mind to the opportunities that were available to him. Being sent away to a boarding school for blind children was more of an adventure to him than a traumatic experience. Every experience—both good and bad—taught him that the main barrier to success is not trying at all.

After graduating from university, Ross trained for cross-country skiing at an outdoor recreation center where he worked. He was later accepted by the Para-Nordic team to represent Canada in the 1988 Winter Paralympics in Austria.

Ross put together a team to climb Alaska's Mount McKinley. Six hours from the summit, severe weather conditions forced all but two members of the team to retreat. Ross was in the group that had to turn back from the summit. The two team members who were chosen to stay reached the summit days later. Of the experience Ross says, "For myself, turning from the summit with only six hours to go was a realization that if chosen [to stay and reach the summit], I had the skills and personal strengths to have summited … after being refused by a climbing school, I now had the respect of other climbers."

Ross set out to climb Mount Logan in Canada. He and three other climbers formed a team to set out to reach the summit. After 22 days and some of the most brutal climbing condition he had ever experienced, Ross and his team finally met their goal on May 25, 2000. The climb was made into a documentary through a partnership with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and distributed to libraries and schools.

Full Profile

When Ross Watson talks about taking risks, teamwork, and personal dignity, he truly speaks from experience. An outdoor enthusiast for over 20 years, Ross was the first blind climber to attempt North America’s highest mountain, 20,320 foot Mount McKinley, in Alaska, in 1990. After 21 days on the mountain and only 6 hours from the summit, a severe storm on the upper reaches of the mountain forced Ross, and all but two members of the team, to descend. Five days later, the expedition realized success when two climbers reached the summit.

In 2000, Ross fulfilled a lifelong dream by organizing and taking part in an expedition to be the first blind climber to summit Canada’s highest mountain, 19,640 foot Mount Logan in Canada’s Yukon. On May 25, 2000 after 19 days of 60-kilometer winds and -35ºC temperatures, Ross and his three teammates reached the West Summit of Mount Logan.

In addition to these climbing exploits:

  • Ross represented Canada in the Para Olympics in the 15 and 30 kilometer Nordic events in 1988.
  • From 1994 to 2001 Ross was a member of a panel that reviewed Alberta’s Human Rights Commission and related legislation and supported 54 changes to Alberta’s Human Rights Act.
  • Ross has served three terms as a municipal councilor, receiving the highest percentage of the popular vote in two of his election campaigns.
  • In 2002, Ross was appointed Operation Eyesight Universal’s (O.E.U.) Canadian Ambassador of Vision.
  • July 2005, Ross did a traverse of the central mountain range on Baffin Island in the Canadian Artic.
  • Ross has been a manager for twenty five years in Alberta’s mountain parks.
  • Ross has been the recipient of many awards including the Canadian ‘Golden Jubilee Medal and the ‘Alberta Centennial Medal’.
  • Starting in August 2008 Ross begins his Ten Mountain Series. Over the next two years he plans to climb the highest 10 peaks in the Canadian Rockies. He will start with the highest of these peaks, Mount Robson.

    Ross is a dynamic speaker, who has made numerous radio and television appearances from the Canadian Artic to New York State. He has spoken to large corporate groups, focused professional development sessions and universities. Ross leaves his audiences motivated and inspired to believe in themselves, take risks, and achieve their own personal Summits of Success.


  • Ross Watson Speaker Videos Back to top

    Ross Watson Demo Video


    As a blind person, Ross Watson's achievements have set him apart from "ordinary" adventurers. Other climbers who know Ross have said, "If Ross Watson pursued his adventures with perfect vision, they would be remarkable." Ross teaches about non-visual expressions of the human spirit when he says, "When you face your greatest fear in the morning, the day goes better."

    Presentation Clip



    Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


    Ross Watson knows about overcoming limitations. He shares his experiences as a disabled person who fearlessly confronts the unknown. Ross helps audiences understand that the fear of failure is a defeat stronger than failure itself. Sharing what he's learned about the challenges from his personal life and his climbing career, his keynote leaves audiences appreciating the true meaning of living without limits.

    Living Without Limits
    Drawing on his unique mountain climbing experiences and an uncompromising belief in the power of personal goals, teams, dreams and ambition, Ross delivers a memorable keynote on the rewards of taking risks and striving for success. Ross speaks on his beliefs that:

    • Action is the first step in creating change
    • The fear of failure has defeated us more often than we have failed
    • Risk is essential to personal discovery
    • Being truthful about your fears is all that is required to empower your self.
    • We all have a summit within us.
    Ross Watson′s unforgettable keynote will have a profound effect on your next event. Whether it is a keynote session at an Annual Conference, an awareness-raising activity, a workshop or an intimate retreat addressing your senior executives, Ross Watson is the speaker for you!


    Ross Watson Speaker Testimonials Back to top

      "Ross, your message to our conference delegates truly set the tone for the entire event. I heard so many comments from people who said it spoke to them where they are at in their lives. Thank you!"
      Deanna Hautz, Conference Chair, RMA 2002, University of Calgary

      "Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for your wonderful talk and slide show last Wednesday at our LACAA convention. I heard nothing but confirmation of what I already knew.....you are an inspiration! So many of our delagates came to me afterwards to tell me what an amazing and funny person, what a breath of fresh air, and a great motivator you are! The comments on the "after convention" feedback sheets were spectacular, the best I′ve seen in years!"
      Karen Sampson

      "I′m writing to thank you, on behalf of the conference organizers and delegates, for your powerful session presentation at the ARPA Conference this past October in Red Deer. Your story was compelling and moving, and delivered with a remarkable balance of conviction, humour and drama. It is a rare ability to be able to combine accounts of adventure with a subtle emphasis on related life lessons as well as you did, especially for such a diverse audience."
      Karen Wall, Co-chair, Conference Programming Committee, Alberta Recreation and Parks 50 Anniversary Conference




    * Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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      "Ross, your message to our conference delegates truly set the tone for the entire event. I heard so many comments from people who said it spoke to them where they are at in their lives. Thank you!"
      Deanna Hautz, Conference Chair, RMA 2002, University of Calgary

      "Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for your wonderful talk and slide show last Wednesday at our LACAA convention. I heard nothing but confirmation of what I already knew.....you are an inspiration! So many of our delagates came to me afterwards to tell me what an amazing and funny person, what a breath of fresh air, and a great motivator you are! The comments on the "after convention" feedback sheets were spectacular, the best I′ve seen in years!"
      Karen Sampson

      "I′m writing to thank you, on behalf of the conference organizers and delegates, for your powerful session presentation at the ARPA Conference this past October in Red Deer. Your story was compelling and moving, and delivered with a remarkable balance of conviction, humour and drama. It is a rare ability to be able to combine accounts of adventure with a subtle emphasis on related life lessons as well as you did, especially for such a diverse audience."
      Karen Wall, Co-chair, Conference Programming Committee, Alberta Recreation and Parks 50 Anniversary Conference


    Living Without Limits
    Drawing on his unique mountain climbing experiences and an uncompromising belief in the power of personal goals, teams, dreams and ambition, Ross delivers a memorable keynote on the rewards of taking risks and striving for success. Ross speaks on his beliefs that:

    • Action is the first step in creating change
    • The fear of failure has defeated us more often than we have failed
    • Risk is essential to personal discovery
    • Being truthful about your fears is all that is required to empower your self.
    • We all have a summit within us.
    Ross Watson′s unforgettable keynote will have a profound effect on your next event. Whether it is a keynote session at an Annual Conference, an awareness-raising activity, a workshop or an intimate retreat addressing your senior executives, Ross Watson is the speaker for you!

    Ross Watson Demo Video


    As a blind person, Ross Watson's achievements have set him apart from "ordinary" adventurers. Other climbers who know Ross have said, "If Ross Watson pursued his adventures with perfect vision, they would be remarkable." Ross teaches about non-visual expressions of the human spirit when he says, "When you face your greatest fear in the morning, the day goes better."

    Presentation Clip