Getting ready for Everest

Special to SunSpot

Columbia, Md.

The sun is rising upon a complete mess. Piles of gear litter the floor, a cup of coffee is hidden among down jackets and solar panels, all of this needs to be crammed into duffle bags in the next few hours. I think I'm a bit behind schedule.

The last two weeks have simply flown by. From March 10-18, I was in Ecuador, working with a great group from the Wharton MBA program. That team was climbing Cotopaxi, their first big mountain, while exploring the theme of leadership. That trip was refreshing for me, allowing me to be in the mountains for all the right reasons: celebrating partnerships, pushing limits, exploring the lessons at the center of both mountaineering and business. Not only did it help me physically prepare for Everest, it helped my mind become centered on the Shared Summits Program.

We flew into National Airport late on Sunday and by 7 a.m. on Monday I was running to meetings. This past week, I met with over 800 school kids, sharing stories from last year's Everest expedition, while prepping them for this year's challenge. It was so gratifying to be in the classrooms, watching some very suburban kids get caught up in the possibilities of climbing Everest. You could sense, from the lack of restraint, their excitement. The "fashion shows" were simply hilarious, especially as we dropped the rear ends of the climbing suit, revealing the answer to the age-old question: "How do you go the bathroom up there?"

On Wednesday and Thursday nights I gave an Everest to Ama Dablam multimedia presentation at the Baileys Crossroads and Timonium REI stores. As always, fun audiences. We raised a few hundred dollars more for the Khijiphilate School Project. Thanks to that and an additional $1,000 donation from a dear friend, we have raised over $7,000 for that school. We now have enough to tear down the old school and build a new one (with toilets, windows, desks, books, teachers, etc.). This fund raising is one of the projects I am most proud of the Earth Treks' community for. Together we have made a tremendous impact on one of the poorest villages in the hills of Nepal.

On Friday, the folks at TEKSystems and invited me to a "Town Meeting." Over 150 folks wished us luck and presented me with the four laptops they have customized for our use. Being tech savvy they laughed through my tale of calling the help desk of one computer company while I was at Advanced Base Camp last year.

Help desk: "Oh, sounds like your hard drive is shot. Don't worry, we have 24-hour service for anywhere in the world. Give us your address and we'll send a technician to fix it."

Me: "Red Tent, Advanced Base Camp, Everest, Tibet. Sorry, but I don't know the zip code."

Help desk: "W-W-Wait a second. Did you say Everest? We don't have a service technician for your region."

I wonder if defrosting the frozen screen by holding it over a stove flame voided any warranties.

On Saturday evening things got even hotter. Over 400 people joined us at the gym, for the second annual Everest Party. The Ellicott Mills Brewing Company brought kegs of micro-brewed beer. It was so good, we drained all of the kegs by 10 p.m. A blues band rocked out in the Bouldering cave. A video of Ecuador, Cho Oyu, Ama Dablam, Everest, the 2000 bouldering comp and Holiday party was projected on a giant screen. Over $2,000 worth of climbing gear, outdoor clothing and gift certificates were raffled off. Over 100 Shared Summits T-shirts, with a beautiful design by teacher Andy Katz, were sold. The folks from TASC, Inc. presented us with a check for $2,000 to help cover Shared Summits' expenses. This now-annual event was a huge success.

So, now that my family has gone home, the parties and presentations are over, the laptops and banners are collected, the packing can begin. I better find that cup of coffee, or I'll fall fast asleep on that mountain of socks.

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