Well, here we are…Everest is in my rearview mirror and I have been taking some time to reflect on this journey of mine. I hope you all have enjoyed following along for the last few weeks. I would love to continue using this website and blog to document the numerous mission trips we take each year and to fill you all in on everything global health. If you are interested, I encourage you to keep following along!
For me, climbing Mount Everest was a dream that I was able to make a reality. Although this experience was personal, I also wanted to use this opportunity to advance global health and provide resources to underserved areas like Nepal to help improve the overall health care for my global health partners. Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow over the world, even on Mount Everest. Seeing this in person has really put into perspective how needed these resources are in these countries. For those of you who are still interested in donating, I encourage you to check out the donations page to read about each of the organizations ( Heart for Africa and Hope Rises) in which I am hoping to raise money. If you were up for the challenge of donating per foot, the highest I climbed was 22,500 feet. You can choose to donate that amount to one of the organizations or split the amount between the two. Again, I thank all of you who have already donated; this money will be put to great use in areas where it is much needed. As a reminder, any donation to Hope Rises will be immediately used for COVID-19 relief in each of these underserved countries.
As this journey comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on what this experience has meant to me and the important life lessons that I have learned from it. First and foremost, I have several people I would like to thank who helped me make this dream a reality.
First, I would like to thank my colleagues at the University of Toledo Medical Center for allowing me to pursue this opportunity and take over my day-to-day tasks for the last two months.
Thank you Dr. Roshana Shrestha, my friend and colleague from Kathmandu University School of Medical Sciences and Dhulikhel Hospital; I will continue to pray for you and support you as you battle through this pandemic.
The entire staff at International Mountain Guides; thank you for your care, support, and guidance through the training and climbing process.
Andy Politz, my personal guide for the past 18 months; thank you for teaching me the ins and outs of the sport of mountaineering, for always being straight and honest with me, for always pushing me to try harder, for taking every step with me on the mountain and never giving up on me, and ultimately for being there to remind me to NEVER take my glove off while climbing. I truly could not have done this without you.
Thank you to my friends and family who were there for Beth throughout the 2 months that I was gone, for checking in and making sure she always had something to do. You know who you are and it meant so much knowing that she had the company she needed while I was away.
I want to thank my kids for encouraging me and supporting me every step of the way, no matter how much they disapproved of my trek at the beginning.
Special thanks to my daughter, Kendall, who designed the website and the artwork and who worked tirelessly every day to keep the blog going and answer countless questions.
Again, I’d like to thank my wife, Beth, who never stopped supporting my dream of this journey, even though I was gone from home a lot preparing for it…and for doing all the packing.
And, ultimately, special thanks to all of you for following along on this dream journey with me, for all the support, prayers and messages I have received, and for all the amazing donations. I could have never imagined the amount of support I have been receiving and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
As I start to look back on this experience, from the minute I started preparations until now, I find that I am having a hard time putting into words what it has meant to me and what it has taught me, but I am going to give it a try. This journey was clearly the most intense physical challenge of my life. Without a doubt, this experience has been rewarding, humbling, fulfilling, agonizing, and amazing.
The best way I can describe this opportunity or to put this into perspective for you all would be just this – I see myself as just another guy (like any of you) with a dream. This dream, however, I’ve had for decades and I was finally able to find the time and put in the effort to join the icons of mountaineering in taking on one of the greatest mountaineering challenges in the world…to climb Mount Everest. It is a pretty awesome feeling to know that you’re chasing one of your biggest dreams.
Clearly, my mountaineering résumé pales in comparison to my colleagues on this adventure, but I’ve been blessed with this unique opportunity to join them for a small snapshot in time on the face of the greatest mountain in the world and this is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
When I set this goal to reach the summit of Mount Everest, I knew I needed to train like crazy and I did just that for two years. This training wasn’t only physical. Realistically, I knew that not only would I have to be physically prepared, but mentally hardened to manage adversity around every corner.
Your fate in any mountaineering challenge is ultimately in the hands of the mountain. I had to hope each day that somehow all the stars would align, allowing me to reach the top. No matter how hard you physically, mentally, or spiritually prepare, there are always unknown factors that you cannot prepare for. When it comes to climbing a mountain, one of the biggest unknown factors is how well you can acclimatize to the altitude and, unfortunately, that is where my body fell short. I will never look at this experience as a failure though. I got to spend over six weeks on a mountain that few people will ever be able to experience its greatness in person, I pushed myself harder than I have ever done in my life, I was able to climb higher than most mountains in the world, I got to meet pretty amazing people and gained wonderful friendships that will last the rest of my lifetime, and I got to end my time here helping those in need. To me that is not a failure and I feel extremely blessed to have had this opportunity and to experience the tremendous growth I have experienced in that last two months.
I will leave you all with this. There are no easy mountains to climb; in the end, the mountain will always determine your fate. The summit, however, is not only the peak of the mountain; there is also a summit inside your soul and to reach the Everest inside of you is the greatest accomplishment you can achieve in life.
Find your Everest and go for it!