Namche Bazaar, team leader Gary Guller sends back reports
of snowfall: At 11,283 feet, we're resting and acclimatizing
for three days before continuing on toward Base Camp. Now
is the time to wash clothes (by hand, of course), and raid
the local bakeries. The Sherpa capital offers the rare opportunity
to indulge in western delights while on the trail, and even
has a bar with a pool table. This is the last sign of "civilization"
- nothing like this further up!!
Christine Kane (Challenge Trek Team): This trip is amazing!
My pollution cough is gone now that we are above 11,000ft
and there is COLD clean air. I am thinking of everyone all
the time, especially on the really steep parts of the trail.
Your support and positive karma have pushed me over many rocks
that are taller than I am!!!
Andy Cockrum (Videographer): It's been a busy day in Namche.
We're hoping to do further interviews with team members this
afternoon. I had a mild altitude ailment last night but now
I'm just slow. Slow slow slow. I need to run now (Ha ha!)
back up the hill for lunch. Doing well.
TE '03 and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities needs
your continued support.
Questions / comments
for the team
show by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News
the main obstacle for wheelchair climbers
By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News
NAMCHE BAZAAR, Nepal The Namche Bridge rocked high
above the Dudh Koshi River gorge as Riley Woods leaned his
wheelchair onto its back wheels and began rolling.
Three Sherpas anxiously shadowed him, but the 28-year-old
Waco man pushed ahead, determined to cross the 200-foot hanging
bridge on his own.
Other members of Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek hooted and
clapped as he reached the other side, and Mr. Woods beamed.
"Ive always wanted to cross a bridge like that,"
said Mr. Woods, a paraplegic since a skiing accident in 1997.
"So now I have.
Just behind him, Mark Ezzell climbed from the bamboo basket
used by the teams Sherpas to carry him and others up
the mountain trail and scooted on his backside onto the bridge.
He propelled himself with his hands across the rough wooden
boards, pausing to gaze through strings of Buddhist prayer
flags draped on its mesh sides to the soaring peaks above
and roiling white-green water below.
was fun, but it was tiring. Its surprising how tiring
it is. Its kind of hard to catch your breath,"
said the 39-year-old Raleigh, N.C., man, who was born with
spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. "Its not scary,
but itll look scary when I show pictures to the folks
It was a small victory for the four of the Team Everest 03
members who use wheelchairs for mobility. They are among 10
people from the U.S. and two Nepalese Sherpa with disabilities
trekking to Everest. The group, sponsored by the Austin based
Coalition for Texans with Disabilities, hopes that their journey
to one of the highest, most inaccessible places on the globe
will call attention to the abilities and potential of people
who live with physical challenges.
At the end of their trek, leader Gary Guller of Austin hopes
to lead a smaller group of two Americans and one Canadian
to the summit. If successful, Mr. Guller would be the first
person with one arm to stand atop the worlds highest
The trek towards Everest has been bittersweet for the four
men who use wheelchairs for mobility. All had hoped they would
be able to propel themselves for most, if not all of the 23-day
But they have spent much of their time riding on porters
backs, and they say their biggest challenge so far has been
patience with themselves, the Sherpas helping their
expedition, and the limits of their equipment.
An axle and suspension had to be rebuilt on Mr. Standridges
wheelchair on the day the group reached the mountains, and
a front wheel on Mr. Ezzells wheelchair snapped on the
first morning of trekking.
Sherpas helped the men improvise, using a camp stove to weld
one wheelchairs suspension and webbing and caribiners
for a makeshift harness allowing Barry Muth of San Antonio
to ride in it on a porters back.
they have moved upward, he and others have often been hampered
by the regions steep, rough terrain and their concern
that the Sherpas could be worn out by helping them push themselves
in their wheelchairs.
"I have so many mixed feelings right now about all this.
I really wish I could do it by myself just walk and
do it," Mr. Woods said after the second day of trekking.
"Its beautiful. Im glad to be here. But at
the same time, I feel bad that Im not doing much and
the Sherpas are having to work so hard."
The narrow trails often traverse rocks and edge steep cliffs
impassible to wheelchairs. Even on relatively smooth stretches,
Sherpa guides often have tried to encourage the men to stay
in the native baskets or "dokos" used to carry them
on porters backs.
"Youre dealing with two cultures. People with
disabilities have their own mores," Mr. Ezzell said.
"One of the things we have in common is the need to do
as much for ourselves as possible.
"You contrast that with the Sherpa culture, which is
to help as much as possible. Thats not necessarily what
those of us with disabilities want," he said.
On Sunday, the group climbed more than 2,200 feet out of
the Dudh Koshi River valley to Namche Bazaar, a village at
11,000 feet that is the major center of commerce for the Khumbu
region surrounding Mount Everest.
As the trail climbed up the river gorge, porters sometimes
swung the mens dokos near sheer drop offs a ride
that Mr. Muth described as "scary."
"Its total trust," added Mr. Muth, 44.
The group crossed three swinging wire bridges as the trail
wound up the gorge, and at the concrete anchors of each span,
the two Sherpa men with disabilities traveling with the group
left sprays of wildflowers as gifts to the river.
Mr. Woods said he saw the third and highest bridge from a
distance, and he made a declaration.
"I said, Im crossing that," he said.
But even though the Sherpa "said yeah, yeah," he
said, "when we got to the bridge, they tried to carry
of his teammates called for the Sherpas to stop, and a porter
carrying Mr. Woods chair unloaded it so he could climb
"We were being carried so much in the baskets that finally
I saw the bridges as our opportunity to push ourselves,"
Mr. Woods said. "Its like whats been said
about Everest: I wanted to do it because it was there."
In a Namche bar after their long day of travel, the men played
8-ball and danced in their wheelchairs to a stereo blaring
AC-DC, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Other trekkers at the
bar marveled at how far theyve come and what theyre
"My friends at home told me this would be a successful
trip if I met famous climbers," said Claudia, a woman
from Germany. "This is even better than meeting famous
The team members talked of their hopes for what will come
next, and several declared that Sundays bridge traverse
is only the first.
all talked about it," Matt Standridge, 24, of San Marcos
said with a grin. "The next bridge is mine.
"Keep pushing. Dont give up. Thats what
its all about. If you give up, you never know what wouldve
happened," he said.
"I do want to wander off the trail and do my own thing.
I get frustrated," he said. "At least Im on
this part of the trail, and not back home. Theres times
when I look up at the scenery and start smiling."