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April 2003:

1 | 3 - 4 | 4 - 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 11-16 | 17-19 | 21 | 22-25 | 27-30

Apr. 11

Namaste from Gary Guller in Kathmandu, Nepal (4,264ft)!

Barry on Khumbu Glacier with  Kazi Sherpa (pulling) and Assok Kazi Sherpa (pushing)   Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning NewsOn April 6, history was made when the Team Everest '03 Challenge Trek Team ascended to an altitude higher than any point in the Rockies, becoming the largest cross disability group to ever reach Everest Base Camp. To fill you in on the last few days, we woke on our last day at Base Camp to an absolutely beautiful morning at over 17,000ft, still in awe of having finally made this dream a reality! Our spirits were in true TE '03 form - upbeat and energetic. All of your well-wishes have been an extremely important part of the team's success and we have felt each and everyone of you there with us.

The high altitude climbing Sherpa had suggested that all Challenge Trek members have the opportunity to do some ice climbing on a safe area of the glacier below the Khumbu Ice Fall. Of course, I totally agreed. So the Sherpa showed up at 7:30am that day with all the necessary climbing gear - crampons, ropes, extra glasses, etc. We climbed and strolled into the glacier where the Sherpa had fixed the safety ropes onto short ice falls. Each face was approximately 20 meters high, giving everyone great insight into what Matt climbs in ice field   on ice fall    Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning Newsclimbing in the Nepal Himalaya is all about.

Everyone - both those using and not using wheelchairs - used the harness, ascenders and figure eight to climb and rappel up the ice faces, while their fellow team members cheered them on, pushing the boundaries yet again, and giving us all an enormous sense of accomplishment.

Climbing at these altitudes is hard for anyone, but imagine the sheer strength and determination required when a person is paralyzed from the waist down. Strength comes from within at this point, and every member of this expedition has shown that special burning desire to succeed. This is something we can all draw energy from in every aspect of our lives, whether it's walking to the store instead of driving the car, being nicer to your neighbor, volunteering, or just stepping out of your normal life for a moment to do something different, physically or mentally.

Matt takes a break from climbing  on ice fall    Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning NewsA special note: We are lucky to have Christine Kane staying on as Base Camp manager for the duration of our climb - she'll be keeping things at Base Camp in good order and our dispatches going out so we can focus completely on the enormous task ahead of us - climbing Everest. We'll be leaving Kathmandu and heading back up to Base Camp early tomorrow morning, and begin our climb soon after. Camps 1 and 2 have already been successfully established.

A quick hello to all the students around the world who have been following the Challenge Trek team's progress to Base Camp. And to two schools in particular - one in Texas and one in Latvia: My good friend Chris Godwin and all of our supporters in Dripping Springs - Thank you and we'll be in touch soon; and Mrs. Tupesis and the 2nd grade class in Riga, Latvia - We thank you for your support and we will Camp looking toward Tawoche Peak (left) and Cholatse Peak    Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning Newsbe contacting you again from Base Camp.

And to our sponsors: Special thanks to Paul Carrozza and the entire RunTex team; to my good friends Marv and Mary Weidner and all the folks at Weidner Consulting; to GSD&M, a company that rocks the marketing world; to our supporter and good friend Dan Steinborn and his team at PrintGlobe; and for the entire Presco team, your flags are at Camps 1 and 2, high on Mt. Everest, and all of the equipment and gear you supplied are already being put to use.

See a slide show by Dallas Morning News photographer Erich Schlegel.


Apr. 15

Celebration!    Photo by Gary GullerKathmandu - One of the greatest parts of any expedition in Nepal is the final evening's celebration with our field staff and Sherpa. After our successful journey to Mt. Everest Base Camp, everyone was in fantastic spirits. However, as we descended into the thicker air from Base Camp across the glacier moraine to Gorak Shep, then down to Tuglar and into the yak settlement village of Pheriche, everybody's spirits (and health!) improved dramatically. Going down is always so much more pleasurable an experience than going up!

After 28 days of hard work, determination and emotional highs and lows, we were like a family, especially when we were rejoined with Kim and Steve in Pheriche. Our celebration was in true Nepali fashion with meal of dal bhat - rice (bhat) with a soup made of lentils (dal) poured over it - and chocolate cake prepared by our chef, Sonam Sherpa. Following dinner, we spread the tables to allow room for our porters and Sherpa staff to be acknowledged for their hard work and great patience. Rounds of applause filled the tent as each came forward to be recognized for their special talents and contributions to the team. Then the party began! Dancing, singing and testing the local concoctions that made everyone smile a little bit more! TE '03 ROCKED the Khumbu that night!

As expedition leader, I was honored to announced the special team awards. Ms. Christine White received the "Snow White" award for her uncanny ability to not get a drop of dust, dirt or yak dung for the entire journey. Her clothes were always the cleanest and her hair the healthiest looking. Jose Reyes received the "Yak Whisperer" award for the special relationship he had formed talking with the yaks. Our photographer Erich Schlegel of the Dallas Morning News was honored with the "Action Hero" award for his untiring work capturing the spirit of the expedition to base camp. Everyone was recognized to the great delight and laughter of all team members. The party went late into the night as all enjoyed our last evening in the mountains together.

Mark Ezzell protects his face from the rotor wash of the Russian transport helicopter as it lands at Pheriche    Photo by Gary GullerOur helicopter arrived on schedule early the following morning for our flight to Lukla (where planes were waiting to transport us to Kathmandu). The Russian pilots were as patient as they normally are as we struggled to fit all members and gear into one huge MI-8 helicopter.

We were overweight and decided that a few of us would wait for the next chopper. Mysteriously, by the time it arrived, practically the entire village of Pheriche had miraculously disappeared. We were baffled by this exodus of people from the village. Soon, we discovered that the majority of these folks had boarded the helicopter through the back entrance and were ready for a flight to Lukla!

Team Everest '03 climbing sirdar Nima Dawa Sherpa and previous Everest summiteer presents a kata scarf to Challenge Trek member Richard Muldowney during the team dinner at the Rum Doodle restaurant in Katmandu.   Photo by Gary GullerUpon arrival into Kathmandu, we were met by the local media and many well-wishers. We celebrated Saturday evening with representatives from the American Embassy in Nepal, and had the opportunity to discuss how America is all about having freedom and Team Everest '03 is about expanding the freedoms of individuals with disabilities to live, work and succeed in the community of their choice, regardless of ability and disability. Thanks to the staff at the Hyatt Regency Hotel - you guys are great!

Monday morning, as the Challenge Team departed for home, we said our tearful good-byes at the airport. We'll have a day to rest here in Kathmandu before Janis, Nima Dawa Sherpa, Christine and I fly back to the hills. We'll be taking the Team Everest '03 expedition into phase II of it's mission: to raise awareness of the potential of people with disabilities to new heights, to the top Team Everest '03 co-leader Gary Guller shows off the signed "Yeti footprint" at the Rum Doodle restaurant in Katmandu. Climbing teams each get a footprint to sign and then place on the wall at the famous restaurant where Everest summiteers come to celebrate their successful ascents.   Photo by Gary Gullerof the world! The Challenge Trek team's determination and inner strength will be the fuel we need as we ascend the world's highest mountain over the next 6 weeks.

Please continue to support CTD and the TE '03 expedition. Your financial contributions will insure the success of this expedition, what it stands for and what it will accomplish. The summit team will greatly appreciate your emails of support over the next few weeks as we will be experiencing both the highs and unfortunately the lows all mountaineers endure at the higher altitudes.


See a slide show by Dallas Morning News photographer Erich Schlegel.

Apr. 16

Chopper arrives    Photo by Gary GullerPengboche - We departed Kathmandu at 6:00am this morning to rejoin the expedition Summit Team at Everest Base Camp. Janis Tupesis, a physician from the Emergency Medicine section of the University of Chicago, is now famous in the Khumbu for his miraculous medical skills and his warmth toward the Sherpa people. Christine Kane, who is staying on as Base Camp manager, continues to share her experiences with her students at Texas School for the Deaf in Austin. Expedition leader Gary Guller is mentally preparing for his attempt on the world's highest mountain Mt. Everest at 29,035 feet.

Our plan was to fly to Lukla, and begin our trek to Base Camp from there, but thanks to the great juggling and negotiating skills of your one-armed leader, a "helicopter" was secured to fly us higher on the trail to the lovely mountaintop village of Tengboche. Unfortunately, what was actually secured was a tin can with three out of four working rotors.

We waited patiently as the pilot used a crescent wrench and screw driver to hot wire our "chariot of the sky". Luckily his skills proved able and we made it safely to Tengboche, a round of applause from lamas and monks at the monastery welcoming us. From here, we made the short hour's walk further up the valley to Pengboche, arriving Inside the "tin can" right before the clouds fell and the temperatures dropped.

A quick thank you to some of our very generous sponsors: The folks at Nike ACG - the great shoes are now on the way to Everest Base Camp for the second time and our friends at BITE Footwear - the Sherpas are still loving the sandals that you so generously supplied - we'll be taking a pair to Camp 2 at over 23,000ft. And on behalf of the expedition and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, a big Himalayan thank you to the private donors who have supported us. We will continue to work hard on the mountain to get the message to the top. We'll write again from Base Camp. Namaskar from Gary Guller!

From "Base Camp Austin": On Thursday, April 17, we invite you to attend...

  • A Press Conference & Panel Discussion for Challenge Trek team members in the Sturgeon Room of the TSTA Bldg. 10am - noon.
  • The Homecoming Bash at Mother Egan's Irish Pub 6 - 10pm to honor returning Challenge Trek members. Austin musicians Leann Atherton, Matt Powell and the Blue Mist Band will play, and original artwork by La Jean Curtis will be auctioned.

Call 512/478-3366 or Email for details about both events.

Contact Dennis Borel at 512/478-3366 M-F (other times at 512/431-1656 or 512/443-6038) or dborel@cotwd.org for a info about interviews, sponsorship opportunities, TE '03 and the advocacy work of CTD.

The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities is dedicated to ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy equal opportunities to live, work, play, and participate fully in the community of their choice. CTD has consistently delivered important results for persons with disabilities for the past 24 years, and needs your support to fight the discrimination that faces individuals with disabilities in almost every aspect of their lives.

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