Mt. Everest Expedition Team Departs: Austin mountaineer Gary
Guller leads climbers with disabilities to tackle Mt. Everest
AUSTIN, TEXAS March 15, 2003
On March 15, 14 people who live with deafness, paralysis,
mental illness, chronic pain or lost limbs began the long journey to Mt.
Everest. Their leader, Austin climber Gary Guller, hopes to stand atop the
mountain in May and become the first person with one arm to climb to the
Team Everest'03, a benefit for the non-profit Coalition of
Texans with Disabilities (CTD), is an 18-month campaign that began in Austin,
Texas in January 2002 and included a host of public awareness events and
intense preparation for all members. Guller made several training climbs on
major mountains across the world, including Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Aconcagua and
Makalu and Baruntse in the Nepal Himalaya.
"In climbing Mt. Everest, I hope to raise awareness and
support for the potential of people with disabilities and to show that life
and dreams continue," says Guller. "Team Everest '03 members embody
responsibility, leadership, physical determination and strength. Team Everest
'03 has a powerful message. It models how society can open the door of
opportunity to all people, regardless of their ability or disability."
The Team's voyage so far has generated a tremendous
wellspring of interest and support, including seeing Guller and team featured
on the cover of the new Austin 2003 phone book, Time Magazine and multiple
radio, TV and print news stories. In addition, they received the Barbara
Jordan Media Award from the Texas Governor's Office, and the Texas House of
Representatives proclaimed March 4, 2003 as Team Everest '03 Day in the State.
In a congratulatory letter from the President's Council on Physical Fitness &
Sports, Chairman Lynn Swann encourages all of America to follow the progress
of the expedition.
According to Dennis Borel, CTD Executive Director and Team
Everest '03 Project Director, the Trek will prove that everyone can truly have
the freedom to explore and live productively if only given a chance. "We are
going to send a message to the world that there really is unlimited potential
to work, play and have a full life if you live with a disability. It is time
to shatter the assumptions and discrimination still held by so many. Even as
the team leaves on this incredible journey, the Texas Legislature is slashing
services that allow many people with disabilities to live successfully in the
community," says Borel.
The world's attention will be turned to Everest on the 50th
anniversary of the first summit by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
The Challenge Trek Team of people with diverse disabilities will take 20 days
to ascend to Base Camp at 17,500 feet. From there, Guller and a high altitude
team will attempt the summit. Weather and conditions permitting, he and his
summit team plan to reach the top of the world in early to mid-May.