Team Everest Anniversary Post #1: Getting There

Gene Rodgers

May 2, 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. New post every Tuesday in May! 

A simplified graphic of a black and white snow-capped mountain on a blue background. 03 appears in orange behind the mountain and Team Everest in white below it.Travel and adventure is a way of life for me. So, when fellow scuba diver Joanna alerted me that the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) was looking for people with disabilities to participate in an expedition to Mount Everest, I was immediately intrigued.

CTD timed this event to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first summit of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. It would be the first time in history a group of people with disabilities this size had ever been to Mount Everest base camp. By sending a Challenge Trek Team composed of 12 people with disabilities, CTD was challenging the world to realize that being disabled doesn’t mean being unable. Executive Director Dennis Borel was practicing what American architect and urban planner, Daniel Burnham, preached—“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized.”


When the Team Everest ’03 expedition was announced, my participation was a no brainer, but I had some concerns. I had to come up with $18,300 and consider the health risks. In addition, it made me uncomfortable to plan a major trip with people I don’t know. I was confident that they could depend on me, but could I depend on them? Traveling independently, I could engage in activities that may border on crossing the boundaries of the law, ethics, or decorum; but as a Team member, I had to behave in a manner that best served the Team.

Raising $18,300, the minimum amount required by CTD for my attendants and me to make this trip, was looming ominously on my radar. I decided to look at this financial obligation as an opportunity. If I could get a publisher to give me an advance payment towards a book about the historic expedition, it would help me meet my financial obligation. I sent a proposal to a publisher in New York. She told me to get back with her after the expedition because she wanted to see what drama was going to develop along the way. Well, that was fine for her, but I needed that $18,300 now!


I also had to find personal care attendants who were willing to come along. At this point in my life, I had traveled to more than 35 countries, and knew that I absolutely needed at least two attendants. If one got sick or injured, the other could take over immediately.

However, finding a good attendant is never easy, and is even harder when I’m traveling. Since I’m almost totally paralyzed, my attendants need to provide for all of my personal care. Their tasks include: basic hygiene, bathing and dressing; transferring me from my wheelchair to a bed or a shower; and rolling me around—up-and-down curbs and steps and over any other obstacles we find. They also needed some sort of mechanical wherewithal in case my wheelchair needed repairing.

As I thought about the possibilities, my mind drifted back to one summer when I taught special education at the University of New Mexico in Silver City. I had a great attendant there named José who was capable of doing just about anything. José was on the backside of 30, had the build of a climber, and loved the mountains. He fixed the plumbing in my bathroom and repaired my electric wheelchair with equal ease. This made him a perfect candidate for this adventure, so I called him with the proposition. José was anxious about going and assured me that he would raise his part of the money.

A wide photo of snow-capped mountain peaks, with bright sun shining off the very top.

I didn’t have to look very hard for a second attendant, he found me. My brother Robert called me and said if I was crazy enough to go, he was crazy enough to go with me. He was always a happy-go-lucky guy and was a bit of jokester. He traveled with me before to Australia and New Zealand, and I was happy to have his company once more. He too assured me he would provide his share of the money.


So, with the securement of my two attendants and their promise to pay for their part of the trip, everything seemed to be falling into place.

Read Post #2: Getting Around

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 Gene is a long-time member of CTD and ADAPT of Texas.