Higher Ground – How The Outdoor Recreation Industry Can Save The World
http://www.summitdaily.com/news/10067796-113/benitez-tibet-incident-mountain”>CMC screens MurderInTheSnow
http://meaningoflite.com/2014/01/14/life-of-paradox-on-everest/guest blog for GoLite
In the Shadow of the Condor documents an expedition in January of 2002 into the spectacular pristine Corcovado wilderness in Southern Chile. The expedition traveled up a “heart of darkness” river, bushwhacked through a vertical jungle, and then emerged out into a magnificent landscape of glaciated granite walls. Filmmaker Michael Brown and Chilean conservationist Pablo Sandor climbed upward to find a jewel of a lake tucked between the highest peaks. Sandor and his Ayacara Foundation are working to protect the Corcovado region from development and the United Nations has just selected Ayacara to receive a prestigious conservation award. Ayacara leaders give important credit for the award to Brown’s film, which dramatized for U.N. and the Chilean Government’s decision makers first-hand why the region should be included in a national park. “In the Shadow of the Condor” was produced by Outside Television, in association with OLN.
by Jeff Messner
I always thought Sherpas were amazing mountaineering athletes. After experiencing their culture and presence it is evident they are devoted to their immediate and extended families. They have beautiful children and homeland. They share it all with us as they devote their climbing lives to helping others summit their goals and dreams.
Kami Tenzing Sherpa – Kami was our Nepalese expedition leader. Kami guided us with a firm determination and a gentle, caring manner. He assembled an efficient and always helpful team for the trek and the best climbing Sherpa team we could have imagined. We owe Kami and all his team our special thanks for contributing so much to our success and memories.
Chhemeng Nima Sherpa – Chhemeng was our climbing lead on Lobouche and one of the world’s great climbers. He had summited Everest 19 times. “ Tragically, Chemeng was killed in an Avalanche on Baruntse the week following our expedition. Chemeng, thank you for helping the soldiers summit their goals and our prayers are with you.
by Didrik Johnck
October 20 KATHMANDU – Outward Bound’s Luis Benitez talks to Didrik Johnck in this video clip shot back up in the Khumbu Valley about the Soldiers to the Summit team and the end of their hero’s journey.
by Luis Benitez
October 19 LUKLA, NEPAL – At Outward Bound we tell everyone that participates in our programs that “there is more in you than you know.” I used to think this phrase summed up the efforts and goals of OB as an organization pretty succinctly. After working with these Soldiers on this amazing expedition, my perceptions have shifted to a whole new level.
Outward Bound’s history with the military dates back to the Vietnam era, serving returning veterans through five-day mountaineering programs out of our base camp in Leadville, Colorado that utilizes the same course area that the 10th Mountain Division employed to train Soldiers before their deployment to Europe during World War II. These programs were designed on the same premise as most OB courses, take a group of strangers, place them in an intense environment to undertake exceptional challenges, and shape the outcomes to assure lessons learned are taken back home to help make everyday life more extraordinary.
It’s one thing to facilitate this process in Colorado, but to take a group of Soldiers where some have been literally blown up, shot at, and torn apart and take them to the Himalaya to climb a peak was a daunting prospect. However once Erik, Jeff and I started talking about Outward Bound’s part in this, we realized that thru OB’s history with serving veterans we could do more, and provide more to these Soldiers in an effort to continue their road to recovery.
So on this expedition, we wanted to combine the prospect of climbing the mountain, with the tangible transference of what a true Outward Bound course would provide, giving the effort shape and definition. In working with Peter Baliey of The Prouty Project, The Heroes Journey started to take shape. To define this process, after each day’s journey, we came together as a team to talk about high/low points of the day, as well as talk about bigger topics like who were your “allies” back home? How do you define your “road of challenges” thru life?
The analogy I used for this process was one of building a house. Some days you would build a few walls, perhaps put in a window or two. Some days saw a wall destroyed, or the “misuse” of “tools,” but the overall effort, if the work was quality, was of a structure that would stand the test of time.
As always with expeditions such as these, one asks the question, “What’s next for us?” As I stood on the summit of Lobuje I turned to one of the Soldiers named Chad. This big, burly bearded guy standing both on his one “real” leg and his one prosthetic leg hold the American Flag with tears silently streaming down his face, I sat there and thought of all he had been through to reach this point, and realized the tears he had on his face were the same that were streaming down mine. Chad is the finest example of where my perception has shifted, all the way back to Outward Bound’s motto from the 70’s thru the 90’s pulled from Ralph Waldo Emerson. “That which we are, we are, one equal temper of heroic hearts. Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
by Didrik Johnck
October 18 MONZO, NEPAL – Didrik ambushes the team and asks them to complete the following sentence, “Summit day was…”
by Brad Bull
October 18 MONZO, NEPAL – Mountain climbing is an irrational pursuit.
On our extraordinary summit day, I had the honor of climbing with Specialist Steve Baskis. His combat injuries left him completely blind and with limited use of his left hand, but with an admirable inner strength that will always serve him well.
We left our high camp at 1:00 AM to clear skies and relatively warm air. We had experimented with a few techniques for climbing together on the trek in including Steve holding on to the back of my pack for direction or following the sound of a bear bell, which is how we typically travel with Erik. We opted for the bell approach with me in front of Steve and Jeff Evans following to provide adjustments and corrections in the event of difficult trail, which was most of the time.
I can’t claim to know what Steve was thinking as we left the safety of our camp, but he did begin to express a series of concerns that revealed his mindset. “I think I’m going too slow”, “I don’t think I trained hard enough” and “I don’t think my gloves are right” were some of his comments.
I view my role in this process as to lend encouragement from my skills and experiences. While these soldiers have been through a wide range of extreme experiences, summit day on a Himalayan mountain has unique parameters and pressures. When the opportunity came for me to help with this incredible journey, I was grateful for the chance for to show my appreciation for all that these heroes had done for me. There was also a serious responsibility to get these amazing people home safely.
Steve’s body and brain were functioning well. He was going through the constant evaluation loop that mountain climbers need to run in order to reduce the controllable risks. Jeff and I knew that left to his own decision making process, Steve would have turned around many times had we allowed him to go down a negative path. We responded to all of his concerns with a string of “you can do it”, “we’re moving well”, “have some food and water”. In some ways I feel guilty for blatantly dismissing his anxieties with easy answers. It would have been much more difficult if he had more subjective and existential questions like “is this worth the risk?”
Steve got married in January. Based on our lengthy trail conversations, his bride, Sarah, has many admirable qualities and his love for her is unquestionable. My encouragement of this mountaineering effort was easy because I knew Steve was strong and his questions were rational. Some of the soldiers had already turned around, so it seemed even more important to Jeff and me to have Steve summit as he embodies the incredible spirit of this expedition.
It was a long and arduous climb, but as the day unfolded, Steve’s indomitable attitude prevailed. He was actually the third person to summit! We had great views, the weather cooperated and we got everyone down safely. I am grateful that our encouragement in the form of not accepting Steve’s attempts to turn around worked out well. We achieved success on many levels. I am most grateful that I could leverage my knowledge to bring some benefit to these incredible soldiers’ mountain experience.
by Chad Butrick
October 15 PHERICHE (This post was held up @12 hours due to an Asia-wide satellite outage) – What a day! I almost don’t know where to begin this was such an exciting day. After trekking for 10 days we finally approached our summit day with excitement. It was really hard to get any sleep before making our climb. I was extremely restless.
We left in two groups one at 1 am the other at 3 am. The plan was to meet on the summit together. When group one left I was already up and ready to go despite leaving in group two. The first part of the climb was a rock scramble up really slabby rock. There was lots of loose rock and scree also.
Toward the top of the rocks we could see the massive snow slopes above us as the sun began to rise. We were also greeted by the massive giant mountains of Nepal. I have been in the mountains in Colorado and Alaska and I can assure you nothing compares to the scale of these beautiful rugged giants. NOTHING! We quickly strapped on our crampons and began our ascent.
It was as hard as you think it would be. I have climbed a lot of mountains but never at this altitude. It is a real fight to survive the altitude, save the climbing. I was blown away at the resolve I saw on everyone’s face as they pushed themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. I remember conversations along the trail as we began to push each other knowing that everyone on our ropes had what it took to summit.
As I hit the summit I broke down in tears. Charley Mace had to dry my eyes as I was overcome with a sense of accomplishment and pride. I had reached my personal elevation high at 20,075 feet. It is hard to describe my complete mental process but I was overwhelmed with emotion.
Then I looked up. There is nothing like looking across the skyline and seeing nothing but huge, giant mountains for as far as the eye can see. There are absolutely no words to describe the scale and size of these mountains. NO WORDS. We looked across the valley and saw the highest mountain in the world; a short 8 miles that might as well have been 100. The scale is that big. No photo will do it justice. Our team met on the summit and it was a very emotional experience for all involved. It was a real coming together showing what a few individuals could do if they decided to do it, disability or not.
Knowing that getting to the top was only half way we spent a short 45 minutes on the summit and began our descent. With a couple of exceptions we all arrived at our advanced base camp unscathed.
I know over the next few days/weeks I will have a lot more to say about the day and what we experienced but honestly I am not sure I have processed all of it yet.
I would like to thank sponsors again for getting us here. For me in particular I would like to thank United Airlines, Bent Gate Mountaineering, Quaker and World T.E.A.M Sports.
We have a few more days of trekking to get down completely and I will talk to all of you again soon!