Team Everest Anniversary Post #6: Documenting the Trip and Reflections

Gene Rodgers

June 6, 2017

To commemorate the 14th anniversary of CTD's Team Everest '03 Expedition, trekker and long-time CTD member Gene Rodgers shares his memories of the event in a series of guest blog posts. Check in Tuesdays in May for new posts!

Read Post #5: Getting Back Down

Against a bright blue sky with a wispy cloud, two people hold up a Texas flag. They are both heavily clothed with goggles obscuring their faces, and one also wears what appears to be an oxygen mask.After I had departed for the hospital, the rest of the Team trekked to Everest Basecamp (17,388ft). The following day the Sherpa set up rigging for the Team to climb the Kumbu Ice Falls, a dangerous but beautiful area.

Having accomplished their goal, the Team departed Basecamp and returned to the US. Expedition co-leader Gary Guller continued on to fulfill his ultimate goal of summiting Everest (left, with Nima, one of the expedition's Sherpas). Having lost an arm as a result of a previous climbing accident, he is the first one-armed climber in history to accomplish this feat.

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With a snow capped mountain in the back ground, two men ascend a rocky path. One is leaning back in a push wheelchair, strapped by a yellow cord to the back of the other.The Dallas Morning News chronicled us every day. Using a satellite phone, they were in daily communication with their home office. Their duties were purely journalistic but that invisible boundary quickly evaporated. I actually interacted more with them than my disabled counterparts simply because they were more mobile. On one occasion, Lee, a reporter, actually helped me get my hair washed, out in the open, over a large bowl. The quirkiness of our trek would have been lost if Erich hadn’t photographed a Sherpa carrying Barry—still in his wheelchair—on his back (right).

Andy, an independent filmmaker, videotaped our adventure. For his efforts, he lost 20 pounds. I’m surprised he didn’t get a heart attack running back and forth, up and down the trail. Andy, and fellow videographer Reed, were up before the rest of the Team, and didn’t get to sleep until Team activities ended for the day. They were able to capture some poignant moments, including the time my brother regaled the Team with his story of how he found out I became paralyzed. I cried when I saw that moment in Andy’s movie about Team Everest ’03.

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I can’t say why I left the comfort of a fully accessible apartment in one of the most desirable cities in the country, to spend a small fortune on a physically draining trip in a cold climate, far from the comforts of home, lacking the convenience of on-demand medical treatment. I can’t explain why I felt compelled to travel in 44 countries, and pursue adventure sports including skydiving, scuba diving, paragliding, and sailing. I have, however, found a word to describe my need to go to Everest: fernweh. It is defined as a consuming longing to be somewhere you’ve never been; an aching to be in a distant and unknown land. Whereas homesickness is a yearning for the familiar, fernweh is a yearning for the complete unknown—a place free from the limiting confines of our familiar society and home.

I’m one of the men described by Robert Service in his poem, The Men That Don’t Fit In:

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.

They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.

Photos by Erich Schlegel, The Dallas Morning News.

About Gene

In front of a brown brick wall, a bearded man in a blue collared shirt and cowboy hat smiles in amusement at something off camera.Adventurer, activist, media star, and educator Gene Rodgers earned a bachelors degree in Education, an MBA, and graduate and post-graduate studies in rehabilitation. He has traveled in 44 countries, on six continents, and a number of island nations. He has enjoyed recreational activities and adventure sports including skydiving, sailing, paragliding, scuba diving, and, of course, trekking in the Himalayas. To to share his experiences, Gene created the TV/Web show “The Gene And Dave Show” with Dave Dauber. View the award winning show on Access Austin or TheGeneAndDaveShow.com. Gene is a long-time member of CTD and ADAPT of Texas.

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