Gary Guller: Greetings from the tiny village of Monjo at 9,300
ft. We are just before the entrance gate of the Sagarmatha
(Everest) National Park. The last few days have been busy
getting this expedition team up the hill. Everyone thus far
is remaining healthy, happy and very, very positive.
We had a great day today trekking from Phakding along the
Dudh Kosi ("Milk River") and crossing suspension
bridges over the river. The support and encouragement the
team is receiving from the Sherpa, the Nepalis and all the
good folks and climbers from around the globe we've encountered
on the trail has been incredible. We've strolled, rolled,
trekked, carried, pushed, pulled, laughed and cried together
as we continue hour after hour, day after day to succeed.
We discussed last night that what we are achieving as a
team is huge on so many levels. The entire team - the members,
the supporters, the Sherpa, the porters and even the dzopkios
(yak + cow) - are showing just how powerful working together
as a team can be and what we can achieve.
We are definitely pushing the envelope in so many ways, but
all the members of the team know too well that it takes powerful
actions to get powerful results. Team Everest '03 is making
waves and raising disability awareness to new heights - and
not just in altitude! The most important things I know thus
far is that the potential of people with disabilities is truly
unlimited and that all people should have the right to explore
life to their fullest potential.
is a big day as we head to the Sherpa capital, Namche Bazaar
(11,283 ft). We'll take a couple of days for acclimatizing
to the increased altitude, exploring the area and enjoying
a much deserved rest. You're in our hearts and your support
keeps us going. Disability awareness to the top of the world!
TE '03 and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities need
Questions / comments
for the team
show by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News
Near Everest, a familiar face
Austin man reunited with Sherpa guide who helped him
By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News
PHAKDING, Nepal For Gene Rodgers, seeing Tsering Sherpa
on his first day in the high Himalayas made all the difference.
The 47-year-old Austin man, one of 10 Americans with disabilities
who are trekking to base camp at Mount Everest, was barely
off the plane from Katmandu when he saw the Sherpa man who
guided his first visit to Nepal more than 10 years ago.
Mr. Rodgers has little movement below his neck since a fall
off a cliff damaged his spinal cord when he was 17.
He rides in a wheelchair, and on his first trek to the remote
Himalayan kingdom in 1992, he was carried in a modified bamboo
basket (called a doko) by a group of porters led by Tsering
Sherpa uses his ethnic group's name for his last name, as
do all Sherpa people who live in the Khumbu and Solu regions
Mr. Rodgers heard last year that the Austin-based Coalition
for Texans with Disabilities was organizing a trek to Mount
Everest, and signed up immediately. He explained to the group's
leader, Austin climber Gary Guller, how he was carried in
a doko on his previous trek.
But he said they talked little about logistics over the subsequent
nine months before leaving for Nepal, so "I was concerned
about how it would go."
The group arrived by plane Thursday to start the journey
at Lukla, a village at about 9,000 feet that is the jumping
off point for many Western treks through the Everest region.
Mr. Guller is leading 26 people from the United States and
Canada. Two Sherpa men with disabilities are accompanying
After the trek ends in mid-April, Mr. Guller and three American
and Canadian climbers will continue up the mountain in hopes
of reaching the summit. If he succeeds, Mr. Guller will be
the first person with one arm to reach the world's highest
After the arrival at Lukla, Sherpa men hired to help with
the Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek helped carry Mr. Rodgers
and four other team members off the plane and up steps to
the main village trail.
"As I came through the gate, this Sherpa was pushing,
pulling, carrying me. Some of these guys looked familiar to
me, some of the guys who had worked for Tsering," Mr.
Rodgers said. "We came up here to where the tents were.
I look up and see this guy. I said it looks like Tsering.
I kept looking at him. I thought maybe I just want it to be
He said his relationship with Tsering Sherpa had been "a
real bonding of sorts. These guys, they'll do anything in
the world for you. He told me stories. He told me about the
culture. He really introduced me to the Sherpa people."
The two men soon were talking and visiting about their last
trip. Tsering Sherpa then was assigned to oversee the porters
who would carry Mr. Rodgers' doko up the trail. It brought
back a flood of memories.
"Some of my fondest memories are of him coming into
the teahouses where we stayed and saying, 'Wake up, Geno.
Time to see the mountain,' " Mr. Rodgers said.
"It feels really neat to be here anyway, but to see
him is a really, really neat way to begin the trip."
Tsering Sherpa helped oversee the weaving of Mr. Rodgers'
doko Thursday, and when Mr. Rodgers saw him carrying it around
the group's campsite in Lukla, "all the sudden, I was
so relieved that he was here. I knew things were going to
be all right."
Even before the group began moving down the trail, Mr. Rodgers
said, the spectacular vistas of sheer mountains all around
and the physical sensation of being at a high altitude had
already struck him profoundly.
"When I was here before at the lower elevations, the
peaks of the mountains were obscured by the clouds,"
he said. "There's no photograph in the world that could
touch someone like being here can. Being at this elevation,
the air tastes better. Everything feels different."
On Friday, he said, he was even more moved by the efforts
of Tsering Sherpa and his porters as they hiked about five
hours into a valley of settlements beside the Dudh Kosi River
before the trekking group arrived in its camp in the village
"When you're on the trail, we might be on the edge of
a cliff. But these guys have absolutely no fear whatsoever,"
he said. "These guys are like supermen."
Several porters took turns carrying Mr. Rodgers through the
day, and Tsering Sherpa walked nearby, "watching everything
and watching me at the same time. They know everything that's
Only two days into the weeks-long trek, Mr. Rodgers said,
he knows that his time with Tsering Sherpa and the chance
to revisit the Sherpa culture will be among his most treasured
"Just from observation, knowing little about the culture,
it seems to me that
the Sherpa life is built around service to each other and
their fellow men and to their religious faith. If you
see them working with me, they're constantly rearranging
my clothes, or shifting me so I'm sitting properly in the
doko," Mr. Rodgers said.
"You can see they're not at all afraid to touch me as
if they know me as a brother or a close friend. You compare
that to the United States: People don't want to get involved.
They don't want to get close to someone in a wheelchair, someone
so physically different.
"It really is liberating," he said. "You could
teach people in other parts of the world how to go through
the motions that these guys do, but you can't make them have