April 11, 2013 - Kalapatthar
We awoke at the Mother Earth House in Lobuche to a dusting of snow all over the mountains. After breakfast we trekked towards the highest village on earth, Gorak Shep, which is a relatively easy uphill and beautiful vistas all around until the town appears around the corner abeam the Khumbu Glacier. After checking-in at the Himalayan lodge and snacking on a small lunch, that included cinnamon rolls and apple pie (Nepal style), we headed out for our day hike destination of Kalapatthar, where views of Everest are supposedly unrivaled in the area. Once on top, the view was almost unbelievably magnificent of both Everest and the surrounding Himalaya. The wind was blowing about 100mph, and it was a significant event in all of our lives:
Today was the 2 year anniversary of my combat injury in OEF on 11 April, 2013. Spending the better part of a year in the hospital was crushing. But one short year after, I stood today at 18,310ft atop Kalapatthar in Nepal, above base camp with a clear view of Everest. I want everyone in rehab now to know that although painful and ground hog dayish, it's worth every effort to get back up and do something epic. Thanks to my wife who supported me throughout all my suffering and continues to be strong. I have to thank TOML and SOWF for letting me experience this incredible journey. We hiked today for all that we remember: Nick McCaskill, Dan Zerbe, John Brown, Andy Harvell, Scott Duffman, Jeremy Fresques, Derek Argel, Casey Crate, Adam Servias, Jason Plite, Mike Maltz, Scott Sather, John Chapman, and all our fallen. The lucky ones.
Reaching the high point of our trek and the highest point of my life, today’s ascent of Kalapatthar with 2 of my Rescue brothers, and its amazing view of Mt Everest, feels like the conclusion of a significant phase of my recovery. Despite some naysayers along the way, taking each small daily victory at a time, no matter how insignificant, dedication and surrounding myself with a community of great people were keys to getting better when recovery seemed distant. Thank you to my wife, Emily, for her unconditional support by my side through 2 grueling injuries in our young relationship. I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all my family, friends, Air Force brethren, Doctors, Physical Therapists, TOML, the USAF 7 Summits Team and everyone in between who helped me on my roads to recovery and made this trip-of-a-lifetime a reality.
Today marked several milestones in my life. First, I completed the trek to the highest permanent settlement on Earth. Second, I summited Kalapattar for my personal highest point above sea level, 18,300 feet. I got photos with the Wounded Wear flag, the TOML patch, Charlie the PJ, and each other. Our Sherpas also offered up their cell phones so we could call our wives. It was two a.m., but I got to talk to my wife at 18,300 feet above sea level in freezing temperatures and 100 knot winds. From the top, we could see Everest Base Camp, a sprawling complex of orange tents perched on fractured granite rock. Tomorrow, we will see Everest Base Camp from the ground, which will no doubt bring its own surprises and opportunities. Tonight, I look forward to a warm dinner and another concert by Rob Dailey with my buddies.
After a few pictures and moments-of-a-lifetime, we started our descent to Gorak Shep with spectacular views the entire way down. After some rest and relaxation back at the Himalaya we had some great dinner and conversation, and then retired for the night.
-Gus, Gino & Diz