It has now been a few months since Iridium employee Walt Everetts and his “brother” Al Lepore returned from their amazing Everest Base Camp adventure. We caught up with the pair to get their thoughts on the 20 days they spent living out their lifelong dream of climbing up to the world’s highest mountain.
[youtube width=”640″ height=”360″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbaq8JIRKU4[/youtube]
Now that you have been back in the U.S. for a while, have you had time to reflect back on the trip? Can you share some of your overall impressions?
WALT: I try and sum up all of the experiences we had there and I keep going back to one word: ‘exceeds’. This entire journey exceeded our expectations on every level. From the food, to the lodging, and finally to the spectacular and grand sights we saw all along the way – everything far surpassed my wildest imagination.
AL: Yeah, even the plane ride over was fantastic! With the abundance of frequent flyer miles Walt racked up, and so graciously shared, it made the cost reasonable and the flight comfortable – business class going there and coming home!
For those of us of who may never have a chance to see Mount Everest in person, what was it like to be in the presence of the world’s highest mountains?
AL: Not a day goes by that I don’t think of those special moments – and there were many – and it brings me great joy and strength, and a tremendous sense of accomplishment. My first glimpse of Everest brought me to my knees, my eyes filled with tears by the realization that I had achieved my dream: to gaze upon the highest mountain in the world! But every mountain in the Himalaya range brought tears of joy, their magnificence so breath-taking that I really have no words. I can only say it changed my life. And it continues to change me as I relate stories of the experience to family and friends.
WALT: It is impossible to look back at this endeavor without thinking about each unique experience and how these pieces created the whole of a completely spectacular voyage to the “gateway to the heavens”. With each step and each breath, I learned more about myself and about the will it takes to persevere in the face of challenges. It’s also a work-life analogy – tasks that may seem daunting at first soon become thrilling and inspiring. It is similar to what I encounter on a daily basis managing the Iridium operations.
Why did you decide to go on this adventure? And why was Everest so important to you?
AL: The night before our Hell’s Gate training trip, as Walt and I were looking up at the clear sky, counting meteors from the Perseid Meteor Shower and watching Iridium satellites streak across the sky, the idea came to us to trek to Everest Base Camp. I had always wanted to do this and to have Walt feel the same way was fortuitous.
WALT: I guess an obvious answer is that Mount Everest is there and climbing to its shadow is something everyone should do. But I also look at it a little more down to earth – it is not only a goal, but a goal worth pursuing. And with any goal, one becomes stronger and more resilient to minor setbacks. In fact, some would say that opportunities such as this trek strengthen the soul as much as they strengthen the body.
What was going through your mind as you were getting closer to starting the trek? Was there a point when you were having second thoughts?
WALT: At one time before the trip, I wondered what it would be like to see the top of the world. I wondered about all of the details and experiences I was going to encounter, and then I feared all of the unknowns. But knowing that fear has no place in preparedness, I elected not to worry about what I was unable to control and instead focus all energies on readiness. That drove me to thinking about how to best prepare for every possible scenario and not to focus on the individual “what-ifs”. Iridium’s global communications network and the ability it provided us to stay in touch with family, work and any emergency needs really helped removed that burden from my mind.
AL: For me, it was stepping off the plane in Kathmandu and experiencing the hustle and bustle of that growing third world city. It immediately made me realize that “this isn’t Kansas anymore”. And then we had to fly in Lukla in a very small plane and land on a very small runway… But even that could not wipe the smile from my face.
It is safe to say that a lot of planning goes into a trip like this. Is there anyone you want to thank for helping make this project happen?
WALT: Above all else, I want to thank my family, friends and coworkers at Iridium for this opportunity. Without their support and understanding of the sacrifices involved, this journey would never have been possible. Thank you all and watch out for the next experience, as it will be difficult to exceed this one.
AL: We can’t say enough about how great our guides were – helping us feel comfortable, acclimating us to the altitude and making us feel welcome in Nepal. When one is surrounded by such magnificence, it is also hard not to feel blessed in many ways. Blessed with good enough health to enjoy every minute of every day, including all the training to get ready. Blessed to have the support of my family. Blessed to be able to share this great experience with my brother, Walt. Blessed to have Iridium and all of those who contributed to the adventure by helping record it so we can share it. Thank you.
Now that you achieved this goal, what’s next for the two of you? Any other crazy adventure plans in the works?
WALT: Common questions since my return have been “Would I do it again?” and “Would I attempt a similar adventure?”. The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ to both, but only if I could be with my brother, Al. We relished in the emotional highs together and I don’t know anyone else I would want to share the experience with. He is the one that made this a reality and pushed us to be successful in this holy grail of hiking. For this I am eternally grateful and wait in anticipation of where our footsteps will take us next.
AL: For my part, one question I always get asked is: “What can possibly top that?”. And I’m still trying to come up with a good response. All I can come up with is “I’m still trying to figure that out, but as long as I can keep healthy, I’ll think of something”. Stay tuned; Walt and I are working on it.
For more details, photos and videos of Walt and Al’s Everest Base Camp adventure: http://iridium.com/EBCAW
To read Walt and Al’s first Everest blog post: http://www.iridium360.com/EBCAW/Part1