Hello to all from Gary Guller in Kathmandu. The team
has been busy preparing for tomorrow's early morning flight
to our trailhead at Lukla. We've had a final clothing and
gear check and made a quick trip to Thamel, the main shopping
area in Kathmandu, to purchase last minute items. Tomorrow
will be a big day for us as a team. Everyone is really excited
about heading into the hills and very focused on team success!
we have arrived, both the Nepali national newspapers and the
English-language newspapers have featured us on their front
pages. While thousands of trekkers make their way through
Nepal every year, it is unusual for trekking news to hit the
papers, much less the headlines. We feel we're succeeding
in bringing greater awareness to the potential of people with
disabilities here in Nepal. News reports have been circulating
all over the globe and we are thrilled that the mission of
the expedition is getting so much publicity. We have received
overwhelming support here in Kathmandu and feel our presence
is making a positive impact. Today, a visit from the Nepali
Society of the Disabled was uplifting to us all. Cheers for
now! - Gary Guller
Andy Cockrum (Videographer): We had a nice long excursion
to Thamel today and shot some great footage. So full of life
and music. I think at this point we have shot at least a show's
worth of footage - 35 hours between the two of us. We're both
getting great stuff, the characters and stories are unfolding
before my eyes, but there's just not enough time in the day.
Our days are full - so full I barely have time to unwind.
Today a disabled Nepalese delegation came to visit and brought
flowers for each of us. It was so touching. Tomorrow we leave
at 5:00 a.m. to start our trip to Lukla. I'm looking forward
to being out on the trail testing my abilities to survive
many days without a decent shower!
Challenge Trek members Riley Woods and roommate Matt
Standrich decided that because the bathroom in their hotel
room wasn't wheelchair accessible, they would remove the bathroom
door from its hinges! The hotel wasn't particularly supportive
of the idea, so the guys were upgraded and are now comfortably
settled in a suite!
Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News
Disabled climbers making an impression on Nepal
As Texas group enjoyed the attractions, they became the sight
KATMANDU, Nepal Members of a Texas-based group of
people with disabilities took in the full-body experience
of Nepal on Tuesday, and residents of the Himalayan kingdom
returned a long, curious look at them.
The Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek was front-page news in
the country's largest Nepali-language newspaper Tuesday. And
the sight of Americans in wheelchairs, on canes and prosthetics
taking in Nepal's most famous shrines drew a steady stream
of gawkers even in an ancient city long used to foreign tourists.
"They're curious about who they are, why they are here.
Many of them are saying, 'These are the people I read about
in the newspaper,' " said Nima Dawa Sherpa, one of the
The Kathmandu Post ran a long feature Tuesday detailing the
trekking team's plans to climb to Mount Everest's 17,600-foot-high
base camp to challenge common perceptions about the abilities
of people with disabilities, and leader Gary Guller's hopes
of journeying with a smaller team of four Americans and Canadians
to its 29,035-foot summit. If successful, the 36-year-old
Austin climber would become the first person with one arm
to stand at the top of the world's highest mountain.
"This is a big story, and I've heard quite a bit of
reaction," said Ang Chhiring Sherpa, subeditor/reporter
for The Kathmandu Post. "People are really interested
in what they are doing here."
Taking it all in
The group including 12 people with disabilities ranging
from quadriplegia to deafness arrived Monday in Katmandu.
They will begin their trek to Everest on Thursday morning
with a flight to the Himalayan village of Lukla.
But Tuesday was a day for taking in one of the world's most
impoverished, polluted and romanticized cities. Most of the
group piled into two buses, one specially outfitted as a roll-on,
roll-off platform for the five trek members in wheelchairs,
and headed into the crowded, dusty city.
stared at knots of men tending ghats, or funeral pyres, at
the edge of Pasupatinath, the temple to Shiva, the Hindu god
of death and destruction. With the help of Sherpa guides,
they scaled steps beside the Bagmati river to take in the
ancient shrine a sprawling complex wreathed in the
pungent smoke of the burning bodies and crowded with worshipers,
mourners, orange-robed Saddhus, or holy men, and a boisterous
band of monkeys.
Everywhere they went, knots of men, boys and even an occasional
Saddhu gathered to watch.
"I never pictured myself in a place like this before.
It really hits you. It wasn't anything I'd even thought about
seeing before," said Matt Standridge, a 24-year-old Wal-Mart
assistant manager from San Marcos.
"And when you get off the bus just now, all these people
talking to you, looking at you. The looks you get: It's like
something they don't get to see all the time, either,"
said Mr. Standridge, who became paralyzed from the waist down
after a motorcycle accident.
Taste of sign language
Christine Kane, a teacher at Austin's Texas State School
for the Deaf who came to serve as sign-language translator
for fellow teacher Mark Gobble, said she has been quizzed
repeatedly as curious Nepalis have seen her conversing with
her colleague. "People wonder what's going on,"
she said. "Immediately, they would say, 'He doesn't speak?'
" Two boys who asked about Mr. Gobble demanded that he
open his mouth after having been told he was deaf and didn't
talk. "One little boy nearly fell out when he saw his
tongue. He apparently thought Mark must not have one."
She said she and Mr. Gobble have learned in visits to some
of the country's schools and organizations for the hearing
impaired that Nepal has only recently begun creating a systematized
version of sign language and creating opportunities for the
deaf that were taken more than 100 years ago in the United
"Two deaf people in Nepal drive. There are only two
of them, and we met them. Most are not allowed to even take
the driving test," she said. "There is just not
much visibility for deaf people here."
Guller, who has led treks and expeditions in Nepal since the
early 1990s, said the sight of people with disabilities in
the country is still unusual because they and their families
are far too poor to afford the wheelchairs, prosthetics, education
and training that would allow them access and opportunities
in the larger community.
The Himalayan kingdom is one of the world's poorest countries,
with more than half of its 25.9 million people living on less
than $1 a day and less than a third able to read.
"But their family environment often seems to be better.
Their families do what they can to support, assist,"
he said. "In the states, people often don't want to deal
with folks with disability."
Many Nepalis seemed clearly taken Tuesday with the American
group. At the Boudhanath, one of the largest Buddhist stupas,
or shrines, in the world, a stream of Nepalis paused from
their religious observance of circling the great structure
to take in the sight of Americans in wheelchairs.
"Good luck! Good luck to you all!" one family called
as they ambled past.
A crowd of 20 or 30 gathered when Riley Woods, 27, of Waco,
Standridge, decided to roll down a side street in his wheelchair
and careened into a wall.
The accident knocked him to the ground, prompting a swarm
of the group's Sherpa guides to run down the hill to put him
back in his chair and try to push him back up the steep street.
But he waved them off and rolled up on his own, drawing cheers
and applause from the watching Nepalis.
"People who aren't in wheelchairs don't realize that
happens all the time," said Mr. Woods, a law student
who was injured in a ski accident in 1997 while attending
West Point. "I've had a lot worse."
As the US prepares for war with Iraq, it seems even more
important to look toward the positive events in the world.
The members of Team Everest '03 and the Coalition of Texans
with Disabilities greatly appreciate the support of our supporters,
both individuals and businesses. This expedition would not
be possible without you and we thank you. We are still in
need of funds to complete the expedition and are grateful
for your continued support.
How you can support the team.
show by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News