NEWSLETTERS - Everest Spring 2010

Newsletter 33 April 2010

Rest Day in Kumjung

Kumjung lies at an altitude of 3,780m and is the perfect place for the Himex team to spend a couple of days acclimatising to the higher altitude. It is not as busy as Namche Bazaar, where most expeditions stop for two days, and it has some historic value. Kumjung is the village where Edmund Hillary built his first school in 1960, which was the beginning of many projects in the Everest Region.

After Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had become the first persons to set foot on top of Mount Everest in 1953, the New Zealand beekeeper wanted to pay dues to the Sherpas for their kindness and strength in helping him get to the roof of the world. The school in Kumjung was the first of many projects of the ‘Himalayan Trust’ and it now provides primary and secondary education for more than 350 children from the surrounding villages. To this day, the charity has built almost thirty schools, bridges, airstrips and several hospitals. The construction of the hospital in Phablu in Solu was actually a significant point in Russell Brice’s life. When he came to the Himalaya for the first time in 1974, he helped Edmund Hillary build the hospital there. From there he went on to explore the Khumbu Region, which was the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with the Sherpa people.

In Kumjung the climbers have the opportunity to explore the area, visit the famous Hillary school or the hospital in the nearby village of Kunde, relax, read a book or take in the stunning scenery. When I talked to Adrian on the phone, they were just marvelling at the sunset over Ama Dablam, one of the most striking mountains in the Khumbu, which is often called ‘the Matterhorn of the East’.

The team is staying in the lodge owned by Phurba Tashi, Russell’s Sirdar, who has stood on the top of Mount Everest, or Chomulungma as the Sherpas call it, 16 times. Phurba Tashi, who has been Russell’s close friend and right hand for many years, has come down from base camp to sort out the expedition gear, which was flown in by helicopter to Shyangboche, the tiny airstrip just above Namche Bazaar.

As promised in my last dispatch, I would like to introduce the team by providing you with a short profile of each member. I compiled the profiles by asking six questions, and today I would like introduce you to 29-year-old Shari Daniels from Australia, who, due to her young age, called herself the ‘baby of the team’ and Gabriel Viti, a restaurant owner from Chicago.

I hope you will enjoy getting to know this year’s Himex team!

Shari Daniels

Shari is an orthodontist from Brisbane, Australia and she has been to Nepal once before. She came to the Himalayan country in 2008, when she was doing some voluntary dental work with Mingma Sherpa, who runs a charity called ‘Smile High’ (www.smilehigh.net). This organisation was set up in 2004 to start giving dental care to the people of the Khumbu. Now, approximately 500 children are treated and examined for dental problems in the region per year. Smile High is also working with Himex and the World Food Programme (WFP) on several dental projects in the Manaslu area, and has a few projects in the Langtang Region.

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

Everest was not a childhood dream and I only got the idea to actually climb it in 2007, when I met Woody (one of the Himex guides, which I will introduce later) in a climbing shop in Queenstown, New Zealand. I was just about to book a climbing course, when Woody walked into the shop. We started talking and he told me that he had climbed Everest several times and I was very impressed. Later that day, I watched TV and saw Woody in the Discovery show “Everest Beyond the Limit”, and this was a sign. I knew I had to climb Everest one day.

After this first climbing course in New Zealand, I went back to do some more climbs and in January this year I summited Mount Cook with Dean Staples, another Himex guide. So far, Kilimanjaro, the highest point on the African continent, was my highest peak.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Putting smiles on people’s faces by improving their teeth. I receive letters from kids with a photograph and they thank me for being able to smile in this picture – and that is just beautiful.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

Frostbite, losing willpower to get to the top and human error. If the weather does not let me go up, that is fine, but I am worried that my abilities will fail me.

How do you think Everest will change your life?

I do not think that Everest, no matter whether I get to the top or not, will be a life-changing experience. However, I hope that I will keep all my fingers and toes, so that I will be able to carry on my work and put smiles onto people’s faces.

How mentally prepared are you for the possibility of not getting to the top?

I have spent a long time eliminating each little excuse as to why I could not go any further on summit day. The Australian climber Lincoln Hall was one of my mentors and helped me prepare for this. The summit is not about life or death but I believe in myself enough to deal with a disappointment. At the moment, the word ‘failure’ does not come to my mind. And I carry the following quote of Lincoln with me: ‚The key to the summit is not to want it too much’.

What will you carry to the summit?

The ‘Crocodile Man’ Steve Irwin, who sadly died in 2006 after being fatally pierced by a stingray, was one of my heroes and I will carry his Khaki shirt to the summit. This is my way of taking his message to the highest point of the world. What I loved most about Steve is that he was not afraid of being himself. And so many of us are!

Gabriel Viti

Gabriel Viti is a restaurant owner from Chicago. He is 46 years old and has two sons aged 12 and 19. He has climbed extensively in South America and summited Aconcagua, Chimbarazo, Ojos de Salado and Cotopaxi.

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

When I turned 40, I realised that I had spent most of my life in the kitchen and that I had not done enough to keep fit. So I started training for a marathon and after I had run the Chicago marathon twice, the Great Wall marathon in China and finally finished an Ironman in Brazil in 2007, I decided that I was in good shape and could climb Mount Everest. When I rang an American operator to inquire about the climb and told them that the only climbing I had done so far was in the climbing wall in Chicago, they told me to get more experience. So I went to South America and did as much climbing as I could, and that’s why I am here.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Raising my two boys! And the support I give to Keshet, an organisation to help my friend’s son, who has autism. The organisation provides educational, recreational and vocational programmes for children and young adults with special need.

What is your biggest challenge on this Everest expedition?

The biggest challenge for me is that I will not be able to follow my daily routine. However, I think that my trip to South America was a very useful preparation.

How do you think Everest will change your life?

Being away for two-and-a-half months will certainly change my life, however, I think that having spent a lot of time in the mountains over the past two years has already changed my life.

How mentally prepared are you for the possibility of not getting to the top?

I have thought about this many times. If I cannot reach the top due to physical constraints I will leave it, however, if I cannot make it for any other reason, I will probably be back next year.

What will you carry to the summit?

I will carry a flag for Keshet to the summit.