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March 2003:

9 15 - 17 18 19 21 23 24 25 26 27 28 30 31 | April
Mar. 25

Mark Ezzell gets a shave    Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning NewsYesterday afternoon it began to snow and then snowed nearly all night. We awoke to a completely white Namche Bazaar. It was pretty neat, but also cooold. I've dubbed Riley and his cohort Matt, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Those guys should be movie stars. Especially Matt. I'm trying to cover them more, but they're so fast, it's hard to keep up. - Andy Cockrum (Videographer)

The time here in Namche has been wonderful - relaxing, playing, getting caught up on correspondence, even indulging in an old fashioned shave. The snow has blanketed the area and we've enjoyed it.

We are saddened that team member Mark Gobble has made the decision to return to Austin. He has been a valuable member of the team and we'll miss him greatly. The team looks forward to moving onward and upward! Signing off for now from Namche Bazaar - Gary

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TE '03 and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities needs your continued support.

Slide show by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News

Mark says goodbye to Interpreter Christine    Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning NewsDeaf Everest team member quits
Teacher doesn't want to be far from family during Iraq war

By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News

NAMCHE BAZAAR, Nepal – The Team Everest 03 Challenge Trek said goodbye to its first member Monday, a deaf man from Austin who turned back for home.

Mark Gobble, a teacher at the Texas State School for the Deaf, said he was uncomfortable being so far from his wife and family during wartime, particularly after arriving at the last place on the trek where he could communicate with them via e-mail.

"That scares me," he said. "I feel so disconnected from my family. Things seem so uncertain."

He left four days after the group, sponsored by Austin-based Coalition for Texans With Disabilities, began its long journey through the high Himalayas to the foot of Mount Everest.

The team is making the 23-day trek to Everest's base camp in hopes that traveling through such a poor, remote and harsh environment to the world's highest mountain will shake common assumptions about what is possible for people with disabilities.

Trek leader Gary Guller of Austin plans to continue up the mountain with a four-person summit team. If successful, the 36-year-old would be the first person with one arm to stand atop Everest.

As Mr. Gobble set out to catch a flight back to Katmandu, Nepal, from the village of Lukla – an eight-hour walk down the Dudh Koshi River gorge – his teammates spent the first of two days in a village at 11,000 feet above sea level adjusting to the strain of high altitude.

Mark says farewell to Sandra    Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning NewsThe thin air anywhere above 8,000 feet can cause life-threatening acute mountain sickness and pulmonary and cerebral edema. Gradual ascent with frequent rest days is required for the body to adjust safely.

The terrain, altitude and living conditions on the trail are a formidable challenge to even the most fit; some experts say only one in 10 trekkers who set out for Everest's base camp makes it.

The group made a 2,200-foot climb Sunday to Namche Bazaar, following switchback trails pocked with rock-studded passes, high swinging bridges and sheer drop-offs into river gorges.

Soon after settling into their narrow, terraced camp, several team members began having minor altitude-related problems such as headaches and slight nausea.

Mr. Gobble said he was not leaving for physical reasons but because he didn't realize how hard it would be to be separated from his family and friends, who are deaf.

A third-generation deaf person, the 28-year-old teacher said the trek was the longest he had ever spent without daily interaction with other deaf people.

Although he has long had contact at school and work and in social settings with people who can hear, he said, "I always get to go back to the deaf world. ... I need that environment."

He said he decided to turn back after getting on the Internet at a cybercafe in Namche Bazaar and reading e-mails from home and stories about the war in Iraq.

"I felt that I should be home with my wife," he said.

He said he had thought hard about the impact his decision could have on his students. He and his interpreter and teaching colleague, Christine Kane, spent the last year preparing a teaching curriculum on Everest for their middle school students and posted their program online for use by other schools.

"I always saw this opportunity of giving students a chance to dream," he said. "Now I'm going down. I didn't finish the dream. But, on the other hand, students may realize you don't get everything that you want."

Mark Gobble says farewll to team       Photo by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning NewsThe remaining nine Americans with disabilities and others on the trip said they were saddened and disappointed by Mr. Gobble's departure, noting that he had taught them much about deaf people.

But they said they could understand his feeling of isolation, even in a group so highly focused on supporting one another.

"Everyone else, they have that camaraderie. It's very tough for Mark not to have that," said Chris Watkins of Thunder Bay, Ontario, who is part of the summit team.

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