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One Man's Himalayan Adventure: An Unforgettable Successful Failure

Dear Rudy,

I spent the month of April 2000 in Nepal, having been sent there as part of a marketing gimmick. Sponsored by the dot com I work for, me and my climbing partner spent 25 days trekking in the Himalayas, inhaling glacial dust and the scent of Yak dung, and sharing the trails, teahouses, and shaky suspension bridges with all kinds of tourists, mountain climbers, sherpas, porters, and Nepalese and Tibetan citizens.

My friend and I, both editors and writers, were to risk our lives trekking at high altitude, sending our digital photos and tales of high adventure and back via satellite phone. To cap it off, we'd climb a glacier -- suitably clothed in harsh-climate expedition gear, equipped with crampons, carabiners, and ice axes -- to the summit of Island Peak. (At 20,300 feet, Island Peak is one of the lower trekking peaks in the region.) Once there, we'd unfurl the company flag for all the world to see.

I got kicked by an ass in Namche (the kind with four legs and hooves), was so sick one day I couldn't last five minutes away from the outhouse, ate unholy amounts of starches smelling of the kerosene used to prepare it, and still managed to lose a half pound for every day I was there. For much of the trip, every step was an act of will. Because of the altitude, bending down to tie my bootlaces made me gasp for air.

My experienced climbing partner (who had proposed this lark to the marketing department) became seriously ill about the time we were approaching Everest Base camp. We were forced to bag the climb and never summited Island Peak. The company, by the way, got next to nothing out of the trip other than some local coverage and a small boost in Web page views.

Rudy, I wouldn't have traded the experience for all the stock options in the world. I was an overweight, 43-year-old man. Very few had confidence that I could make it. When I started training for the trip in January, I weighed 232 pounds. When I returned May 1st, I weighed 204.

Though I moved the slowest and lagged behind our 13-man team, I walked among the giant cracked pyramids of the Himalayan Mountains. I heard the thunder of avalanches and drank chang with a monk at one of the highest Buddhist monasteries in the world. While my experienced partner descended to recover from altitude sickness, I hiked up Kala Patar. From the summit of this 18,400 Himalayan toddler, I gazed at the blue and red tent city of Everest Base Camp far below, and at the plumed summit of Everest, the sacred mountain, eleven thousand feet above me.

To this day I can't start a morning without Jasmine green tea, I run 5K races, and I look back fondly on the gentle and devout Nepalese people who loaned me their backs so I could make this arduous, awesome adventure.




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