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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. 19

Puja at BCEverest Base Camp After two long, difficult days we finally made it! When the tin can, uh, I mean helicopter dropped us in Tengboche from Lukla, we did a half day hike to Pengboche, the trekked a long day from Pengboche to Lobuche, followed by another tough day from Lobuche to Base Camp. All in all, we increased approximately 13,000ft in altitude in 2 1/2 days!

Despite our previous acclimatization, we were all feeling the strain on our legs and lungs. BC manager Christine Kane had her first bout with the effects of altitude. Her legs felt like rubber bands and her tummy was not happy! Some of the tougher hills made it necessary for her to stop every 20 steps or so just to keep it together. Luckily this only lasted about 10-12 hours and she felt much better after getting a few extra liters of water, some calories and Advil in her system!

Toilet tent at BCWe arrived at base camp to shouts of "Namaste" from our climbing Sherpas - what a welcome sound and sight for sore eyes and legs. As you can see from our pictures, we have luxurious accommodations in terms dining and toilet tents, as well as our open air shower!

We have hung our Team Everest '03 banners with pride alongside our flags in support of all the troops involved in the conflict overseas - God Bless Texas, the USA and all the people that support and believe in TE '03!

Luckily - given its cost and importance to the success of the expedition - all the oxygen has arrived safely. Your support for all these critical items is continually appreciated! Also appreciated are your words of support and encouragement in your emails - please keep them coming - they do wonders for tired minds and bodies!

Oxygen that will used at higher camps and on summitCamp 1 and Camp 2 have been established and I will be departing Base Camp and climbing to Camp 1 through the Khumbu Ice Fall on April 20th. I will spend one night in Camp 1 before ascending to Camp 2 to check on our higher altitude "suites" on the hill - if only! Two or three of our fine high altitude Sherpa will be accompanying me along with Gary Scott to guarantee some excellent images and possibly some video courtesy of Texas School for the Deaf - Go Rangers!!!!

Some interesting, behind-the-scenes details:

Christine K. hates ketchup - Expedition leader puts ketchup on EVERYTHING!

Gary S. is Mr. Protein / Vitamin Man. He is the future Jack LaLane, we are sure of it.

Vince B. is Recovery Man! He arrived from Camp 1 really tired, but it's amazing what a combination of Nak Cheese, Spam, baked beans and chapatti can do for a man!

Janis showers at BCDr. Janis is a little bit tall for our open air shower, therefore everyone at Base Camp takes great pleasure watching him scrub his armpits and head in true medical fashion. As he was the last to take a shower after lunch (all of the rest of us showered before lunch) he was banished from the dining tent!

Team Everest 03's top picks for today for a welcoming arrival at base camp:

1) Nike ACG: All summit members have had great feeling feet thanks to Nike ACG Thielsen. I've worn these shoes for over 30 days on the trail now and my feet have never felt better. The comfort and durability is unparalleled to any shoe I have ever worn in the high Himalaya.

2) Ruby's BBQ Sauce: All the Sauce arrived at BC intact. Everyone who knows me knows how much I groove on a meal of 2 Ruby's all-natural BBQ sandwiches, 2 jalapeno peppers, 2 packs of potato chips and a garden salad (and of course, extra BBQ sauce). Although I only have the BBQ sauce here, I can surely imagine the fine taste of this truly Texas BBQ house in Austin at Guadalupe and 29th.

BC dining tent3) Gold Bond Powder: So far, the Gold Bond Powder has been the savior of our expedition meetings. I need not go into great detail, but my team members that visit my tent thank Gold Bond. Its a foot thing!

One last thing to all the students out there who are following the expedition: keep it up, learn a lot and keep sending emails with questions! We've established base camp thanks to you, your families and all of the TE '03 supporters!

Cheers from Gary Guller and the Summit Team at Everest Base


Apr. 17

Local and national media attended a panel discussion and press conference in Austin with eight of the returning Challenge Trek members: Mark Ezzell, Sandra Murgia, Barry Muth, Dinesh Ranasinghe, Kim Smith, Matt Standridge, Christine White and Riley Woods. The following AP story appeared in newspapers nationwide.

Everest trekkers return with new insight
Lessons from the top of the world
Associated Press

Riley Woods at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphics April 18, 2003 AUSTIN – For Riley Woods, life will never be as hard again. Paralyzed in a snow skiing accident six years ago, Mr. Woods was one of eight disabled Americans who climbed to Mount Everest's base camp at 17,600 feet earlier this month.

After negotiating craggy trails, crossing rickety bridges and slippery ice in an extraordinary adventure, members of the group said Thursday after returning to Austin, where many of them started their trip, that the climb proved the disabled can overcome many obstacles, even those that might seem impossible.

"You want to talk about the most inaccessible, wheelchair-unfriendly place in the world," said Mr. Woods, 28. "If we did it there, the rest of life will be a breeze."

Organized by one-armed mountain climber Gary Guller with the help of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, the group spent 18 days scaling the mountain alongside Nepalese Sherpas, the Himalayas' renowned mountaineers. Mr. Guller, 36, is an experienced climber who plans to try to reach the summit of the world's highest peak at 29,035 feet this summer.

Sandy Murgia at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphics The group started at Lukla, a town about 9,180 feet above sea level. From there, they made their way up the mountain along stony trails sometimes wide enough for only one person. On one trail, the team was heading up when a pack of yaks was heading down.

Sandra Murgia, 43, has arthritis and leg paralysis, and uses a cane. She was in the Navy when her leg was crushed while loading bombs onto a ship before the first Gulf War.

For her, the confrontation with the yaks was a scary moment. "My footing is not so good," she said.

Those on the Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek who use wheelchairs pushed themselves when they could. The Sherpas carried them on their backs when the climb was too steep or too rocky.

Matt Standridge at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphics That meant trusting the Sherpas completely when a false step or fall could send them plummeting hundreds of feet.

"I had my life in their hands," said Matt Standridge, 24, who was paralyzed in a motorcycle crash.

The trip wasn't without setbacks. Several members had to turn back for various reasons, including altitude sickness.

Biting cold, lack of a familiar diet and difficulty with simple tasks, such as getting in and out of a sleeping bag, compounded the hardship. The group reached base camp on April 5. More than 1,200 people have climbed the mountain, Barry Muth & Dennis Borel at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphicsmany helped by Sherpas. Nearly 200 have died on its slopes.

Barry Muth, 44, a quadriplegic since a vehicle roll-over accident ended his Army career four years ago, said he nearly quit the expedition. Mr. Muth, who cannot dress himself, said he got depressed when the attendant making the trip with him had to leave. [Barry's attendant did not leave, but Gene Rodgers' attendant assisted Barry in his daily living activities after Gene had to leave the trek for medical reasons.] That's when the other members of the group encouraged him to go on with help from other attendants [other team members].

"I was ready to turn around," Mr. Muth said. "I was in tears. But because of everyone else, I was not going to leave."



Dinesh Ranasinghe at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphics

Kim Smith at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphics

Mark Ezzell at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphics

Christine White at Press Conference    Photo by Tori Communication Graphics

Thanks to all who attended our Homecoming Party at Mother Egan's Irish Pub on Thursday, April 17. Your support and positive energy are greatly appreciated.

Contact Dennis Borel at 512/478-3366 M-F (other times at 512/431-1656) or 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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