from Gorak Shep,
We're now two
days at 17,000 feet due
to a dumping of snow that made it unwise to move our expedition
on to the Khumbu glacier toward base camp.
We've had to say good-bye to a few of our team
members: Our great friend and supporter, Gene Rodgers along
with his brother Robert
Rodgers, who was acting as his
Smith, Lakpa Dorjee Sherpa and Tenzing Sherpa unfortunately
could not shake their headaches and made the decision to descend
and wait at lower altitudes.
For such a large team to be
this high and to have the majority still pushing onward and
upward shows the determination and the strength of the human
spirit to achieve goals beyond the "norm".
We've enjoyed the day of rest
here. The sun eventually came out around noon and all the
team broke out their Frisbees. We have all tried to improve
our accuracy - at these altitudes, one really likes to be
able to throw and/or catch the Frisbee without moving a whole
lot, because even a few steps and you tend to lose your breath.
The team feels exceptionally
tight - we've been cutting
jokes and laughing at the wonderful ways we've had to overcome
the challenges that have been so nicely presented to us over
the last three weeks. I've never seen such a determined team,
both focused and fully understanding the historic event that
is about to take place. Thank you for your continued support.
Inspirational trekker forced to turn back
'It's important to go out there and try,' he says
By LEE HANCOCK / The Dallas Morning News
SHEP, Nepal A medical condition forced Gene Rodgers,
an Austin man whose love of travel inspired Team Everest 03,
to leave the Himalayas for Katmandu on Friday the day
the group had hoped to reach Mount Everest.
Mr. Rodgers, 47, became ill Thursday night with what team
doctor Janis Tupesis described as a bowel obstruction, a potentially
serious twisting of the intestines that required his hospitalization.
He was evacuated by helicopter Friday to undergo treatment
"Things can go wrong almost any time, and when you're
so close to the final prize, it's particularly tough,"
Mr. Rodgers said. "But the important thing is to go out
there and follow your dreams. It's important to go out there
Snow was falling as he departed for a one-hour trip by doko,
or porter-carried basket, to meet a helicopter at the village
difficulty of takeoffs at high altitude forced the helicopter
to make two trips to pick up Mr. Rodgers, his brother and
their gear. It flew Mr. Rodgers to a medical aid post at Pheriche,
about 2,400 feet down the mountains, before returning for
the rest and taking the entire party from Pheriche to Katmandu.
Mr. Rodgers is the third of 10 U.S. team members with disabilities
to turn back since the 23-day trek began. An Austin teacher
who is deaf left on March 24 because of homesickness, and
Kim Smith, a Dorchester, Texas, woman with fibromyalgia, stopped
this week in Dugla after being delayed earlier by stomach
and altitude sickness.
Two Sherpas with disabilities on the trek, Lapka Dorje Sherpa
and Tenzing Sherpa, also descended Friday because of altitude
sickness. They will wait with Mrs. Smith at Pheriche, where
the team will fly by helicopter to Katmandu in about a week.
The two Sherpas joined the trek to bring attention to people
with disabilities in Nepal. Lapka Dorje Sherpa made a pilgrimage
before the trek to Lumbini, the Nepali city where the Buddha
was born, to pray for the expedition's success. He and Tenzing
Sherpa said the trek was a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual journey
to honor the deities whom Sherpas and other Tibetan Buddhists
believe reside in the world's highest mountains.
team had hoped to reach base camp Friday but stayed in Gorak
Shep because of icy trail conditions from morning snow showers.
Mr. Rodgers, unable to move below his neck since a
fall from a cliff at 17, was among the first people to sign
up for the Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek when it was announced
more than a year ago by a Texas-based disability advocacy
The Texas Coalition for the Disabled organized the trek to
Mount Everest base camp, along with Austin climber Gary Guller,
to shatter stereotypes about capabilities of people with disabilities.
After the trekkers reach Everest, Mr. Guller and three climbers
will try to reach the summit by mid-May. If successful, Mr.
Guller would be the first person with one arm atop the world's
Mr. Rodgers posed a challenge to organizers, who said they
were initially unsure how to transport someone with such physical
limitations on the steep, rocky trek.
But Mr. Rodgers explained how he trekked in Nepal a decade
before in a modified doko the bamboo basket that porters
use to haul goods in the largely roadless mountain kingdom.
Mr. Guller and Sherpas working with him began planning to
carry anyone with mobility problems in dokos over rough parts
of the trek, and five people who use wheelchairs including
two paraplegics, a quadriplegic with limited use of his arms
and a man born with spina bifida eventually joined
Mr. Rodgers' brother, Robert Rodgers of Parma Heights, Ohio,
decided to come along to help, and the two became known for
their slapstick banter.
Other team members using wheelchairs sometimes chafed at
being in dokos, but Mr. Rodgers joked about his transport
daily announcing his obligation to "break trail"
for the team and set up high camps for the summit team climbing
When the group arrived at the Himalayas, Mr. Rodgers was
unexpectedly reunited with the Sherpa guide who led his first
Nepali trek. Mr. Rodgers said seeing Tsering Sherpa was a
highlight of the Everest trek, and the Sherpa became his constant
"If it had ended in the first few days, it would've
all been worthwhile, especially being reunited with Tsering
Sherpa," Mr. Rodgers said Friday.
Tsering Sherpa was among the Sherpas and porters who accompanied
Mr. Rodgers and his brother, the team doctor, and team co-leader,
Gary Scott of Colorado Springs, Colo., down the trail to Lobuche.
Mr. Rodgers said he was disappointed at not seeing base camp
but happy to have reached 17,000 feet. His last night in the
Himalayas was spent where the expedition that included Edmund
Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay the first two men
to climb Mount Everest set up its base camp 50 years
"There wasn't any discussion about not going. We both
knew," Mr. Rodgers said after a sleepless night in which
Dr. Tupesis held him for hours as he worried about the severity
of his condition. "This isn't going to stop me, though.
There'll be other places, other times."
leaving, he asked teammates to take a bagel he'd brought from
Katz's Deli and Bar in Austin to photograph at base camp,
and an American flag sewn by his mother for the team's base-camp
portrait. He also left a bottle of Austin-made vodka, which
he'd hoped to offer at the group's base-camp puja or Buddhist
ceremony honoring Everest.
Before a porter hoisted his doko in the pelting snow, Mr.
Rodgers asked someone to open his coat hood so he could see
"He wants to take everything in," his brother said.
*** Update: We received word that Gene arrived safely in
Kathmandu, is feeling much better and resting comfortably
in the hospital. His and Robert's wonderful humor are keeping
the hospital staff hopping, we're sure! We'll keep you posted
on his progress.
Contact Dennis Borel at (512) 478-3366 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for a media kit, sponsorship opportunities and to learn more
about TE '03 and the advocacy work of CTD.
Messages and questions
for the team
show by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News
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
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