NEWSLETTERS - Everest Spring 2010

Newsletter 1215 April 2010

The Himex team of guides

After having introduced you to most of the members of this year’s team, I would also like you to meet the guides, who will do their utmost that this expedition will be a successful and safe one.

I would like to start off with Adrian, who was guiding on Everest for the first time in spring 2009. It was great to have Adrian on the team last year as he was always in a good mood and there was always a smile on his face.

Johnny Davison is the so-called ‘new kid on the block’, as this expedition is his first trip with Himex.

Adrian Ballinger

Adrian is one of Himex’s guides on this year’s expedition. The 34-year-old from Squaw in California summited Everest for the first time in spring 2009. He has worked as a mountain guide since 1997 and has been guiding for Russell since 2007.

How did you get into guiding and was Everest one of your guiding goals?

I started climbing when I was 12 years old and I have wanted to climb Everest since then. When I left school I was going to study medicine to become a doctor. I climbed my first 6,000m peak when I was 17 and I was absolutely hooked and kept on climbing. My parents did not like the idea of me giving up my professional career and becoming a mountain guide. However, a few years ago I took them on one of my expeditions in Ecuador and they were very proud of my work.

I really enjoy the whole process of climbing with people, who train, give up a lot and take two months to climb the biggest mountain in the world. Helping these people getting to the top is just amazing.

I am very excited to go back to Everest and I hope that I will have a more intense experience this year. Last year, my summit day was great but I had a lot to do and I was a bit stressed as it was my first time. I don’t remember a lot about the summit, so I am hoping to refresh my memories.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Taking the path to be a mountain guide. I grew up in a very middle-class society with a lot of expectations regarding a proper career and making good money. I have no regrets that I took this turn and I am very proud of my lifestyle.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

Getting to know my members and the people I will be climbing with. Being able to recognise their strengths and their abilities. That is what I love about my job. Every expedition is unique as the team is made up of many different characters, which I absolutely love.

How difficult is it to deal with members, who do not make it to the summit?

This is actually the most challenging part of the job. The final summit is so important, however, I always hope that the top is not the only part the people remember about their expedition. I want them to remember the best parts of the climb and that is often challenging.

Has Everest changed your life as a guide?

Definitely. Most of my clients ask me whether I have climbed Mount Everest, and having climbed it has certainly opened new doors for me and has changed me as a person. It completely fulfilled me last year and I am excited to be doing it again.

What will you carry to the summit?

A sea stone and a Buddhist Mandala, which I wear around my neck.


Johnny Davison

Johnny is from Wanaka in New Zealand and has worked as a guide for four years. The 29-year-old has mainly climbed in Antarctica, Alaska and New Zealand and this is Johnny’s first time working for Himex.

How did you first come across Everest and who inspired you to climb it?

Everest is not a mountain I always wanted to climb, however, guiding it is different. I would certainly not come here to climb Everest for myself as there are many other mountains I would like to climb.

However, I came across Mount Everest very early in my life, when I was about five years old. Edmund Hillary lived next to my school in Auckland and I regularly saw him on my morning walks. My mum often pointed out that he was the first person to climb Mount Everest. This was fascinating for me but when I started climbing, Everest became less of a focus.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

I am an ice-climber and I have climbed some of the worlds’ best ice-climbs with the world’s best ice-climbers. Some of the climbs are amongst the hardest around and doing new routes in New Zealand has been great.

How do you feel being the new ‘kid on the block’?

It is great to be on an expedition with these guides, who have a lot of experience in guiding Everest. I can learn a lot from them and I am excited to be here.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

I guess for me the biggest challenge is the number of people on the mountain. I am a bit worried about getting caught in a traffic jam and getting stuck in bottle necks as this is beyond my control.

How difficult is it to deal with members, who do not make it to the summit?

This is not that difficult to handle as the clients often know themselves whether they should carry on or not. My job is to give them the best opportunity to achieve their goals. I get a huge amount of satisfaction to help people achieve their goals.

How do you think Everest will change your life as a guide?

A lot of mountains change your life in ways that are not always obvious. If you challenge yourself and stand up to a challenge you gain self-confidence, self-belief and satisfaction in overcoming an obstacle. That is not specific to Everest and I have done this many times.

As a guide I think it will open doors for me, however, which ones, I don’t know yet.

What will you carry to the summit?

My dad gave me a St Cristopher pendant, which I will take to the summit.


Hiroyuki Kuraoka

Hiroyuki Kuraoka, known as Hiro, is from Chiba in Japan and has worked as a mountain guide for 12 years. This is his seventh year with Himex and he summitted Mount Everest three times, Cho Oyu twice and Manaslu three times. He is married with two daughters, aged 21 and 17.

How did you get into guiding and was Everest one of your guiding goals?

I started climbing when I was 14 years old and I was always dreaming about climbing Mount Everest one day. But when I was 24 I took a big fall while rock climbing and my Everest dream seemed to be out of the window. I did not climb for 10 years because I was too scared. During those years I worked as a tour leader.

One day a friend took me to a climbing wall and I found that my fear had gone so I started climbing again. In 2004, I reached the top of Mount Everest for the first time with climbing and it was an amazing experience.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The first ascent of a 900m-high wall up the Angel Falls.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

For me the biggest challenge on this trip is the Khumbu Icefall. Last year, I experienced it for the first time and it can be quite tricky. However, we go through it during the night, which is much safer.

Did Everest change your life as a guide?

Everest has not changed my life but guiding in general has changed my life. My work takes me to many places and climb many mountains, like Manaslu and Cho Oyu. I learnt a lot from Russell about safety, which has been great.

What will you carry to the summit?

Just the clients.

Marc Woodward

Marc, known as Woody is from Queenstown in New Zealand. The 46-year-old is married with three daughters, aged 11, 15 and 18. He has worked as skiing guide for over 20 years and has been mountain guiding for 13 years. He has climbed Everest six times (five times from the north side in Tibet and once from the south side in Nepal) and always climbed with Himex.

How did you first come across Everest and did you always want to climb it?

I never had a burning desire to climb Everest, but I always knew that I would do it if I had the opportunity. And the opportunity came up in 2004, when I was guiding a team to the North Col for Himex. The team was part of an Everest expedition with Russell, and when one day one of his guides fell sick, he asked me whether I wanted to take over and guide his clients to the summit.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

I have lots of achievements in my life, and I don’t want to single anything out. Having three daughters is probably a big achievement, but so is racing my motorbikes and climbing.

What is your biggest challenge on an Everest expedition?

Getting everyone up and down safely on summit day. I have had to turn clients around but it was always obvious to the clients that they had to. Another big challenge is having good people’s skills and a good grip of psychology.

How has Everest changed your life as a guide?

Everest did not change me as a person but it certainly changed my life as a guide. The clients love going to the mountains with a guide who has been to the summit of Everest.

What do you carry to the summit?

I have two New Zealand greenstones – on was given to me by a friend and the other one by my grandmother. I will carry them to the summit.

David McKinley

David McKinley, known as ‘Gnarly’ from New Zealand has worked for Himex since 2005. The 41-year-old reached the top of Mount Everest for the first time in 2009. He has worked as a guide for 15 years and is married with two boys, aged 11 and three, and one daughter aged nine.

How did you get into guiding and was Everest one of your guiding goals?

Everest was never on my radar, simply because I could not afford it. But when I got the offer to work for Russell in 2009, the mountain became a big thing for me. I was also very honoured that Russell had asked me as I appreciated his trust in my guiding skills.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

My little boy Finn.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

Keeping the overall objective of getting people up and down in one piece. The challenge is not personal; it is more the role of motivation and encouragement balanced out with safety. What I find hard about Everest is that it takes two months out of your life.

Has Everest changed your life as a guide?

It has certainly gained me more respect as a guide, and I have to say, the mountain does get under your skin. When you have been to Nepal once, you get more and more involved and interested in the people of the country.

How difficult to find it when you have to tell clients to turn around?

In 2005, I was guiding for Himex on the North side of Everest, and I had a client who had to turn around at 8,600 as he had reached his physical limits. I never got to the stage where I had to impose my will on him. And even though I had not been to the summit of Everest before I was also quite happy to turn around as I had two broken ribs from coughing. I would have been strong enough to continue but turning around was not a distressing circumstance – and this is my job anyway.