June 10, 2016 – We did it.
Reaching the top of Everest was, simply put, incredible. We stood at the summit for 25 minutes enjoying the beautiful views we worked so hard to see. In that moment, it didn’t matter that the air around us was –40 degrees. I had accomplished my goal, and all of my training and preparation had paid off. Today, back home in Colorado, I still get chills thinking about it.
Time to climb
On May 10, we began our summit climb. Previously, we had completed two acclimatization climbs, where we journeyed partially up the mountain and then back to basecamp to prepare our bodies for the conditions, particularly the altitude.
At the outset of the climb, we faced the Khumbu Icefall, one of the most dangerous areas on the mountain. As we made our way across the icefall, a serac (a large ice formation) crashed to the ground about 30 feet in front of us. It was a sobering experience … what if we had been a little further ahead? Crossing the icefall felt like a five-hour obstacle course, but we pushed forward. Once complete, we moved on to Camp 1.
One night, I awoke in my tent with Cheyne-Stokes, a respiratory issue caused by the altitude. For several minutes I could hardly breathe. I felt as if I was drowning, or suffocating. Gasping for air, I wondered if this climb was worth it, and I began to second-guess myself…
The wise words of my father helped me regain confidence. When I was twelve years old and having a rough time adjusting to my disability, he said “You can either be pitiful or powerful, but you can’t be both.” Since then, I’ve always known which one I wanted to be.
This journey tested me—both in body and mind. To reach the highest point, I had to make it through the lows.
A challenging adventure
We encountered a few more challenges up the mountain. But each time, I felt completely prepared to face them ... my dad’s words still ringing in my head.
At Camp 2, we encountered severe weather, forcing us to wait there for six days. This was difficult, mostly because we were quickly losing weight—and when I lose weight, it affects the fit of my prosthetic leg. In total, I lost about 20 pounds and had to adjust my leg on the spot to proceed safely.
Push to the summit
So we continued on, moving up to Camp 3, where we spent the night. The winds were ferocious that next morning. We tried to wait it out, but the weather just wasn’t on our side. We decided to surge ahead, embarking on a 12-hour push to the summit in a true whiteout blizzard.
I’ve already told you how this story ends … and I can say with absolute certainty that it was worth it.
I became the first American amputee to reach the top of Mt. Everest. I hope this achievement proves that you can truly accomplish anything with the right mindset and preparation. It didn’t matter that I was missing a leg. I set a goal for myself, and I was completely committed to putting in the work necessary to accomplish it. Taking that journey—working toward the goal—that’s what mattered most.
On to the next journey…
When you accomplish one goal, it’s time to set another. Next up for me: I want to conquer all Seven Summits (the highest peaks of the seven continents—Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Vinson, and Carstensz).
Two down, five to go.
Thanks for following along with me!
Take a look at Jeff’s panoramic views from the top of the world!