Guller: This is his Q&A, Part one
a climbing accident left mountaineer Gary Guller
without the use of his left arm, his hopes of
ever climbing again were shattered. But in
Spring 2001, Gary's biggest dream was attempted.
He will traveled to Nepal's Himalaya to attempt
to summit the world's highest mountain.
began rock climbing in the southeast in his early
teens and quickly moved on to other mountain ranges
throughout the US. He soon set his sites on the bigger
mountains of the world. In 1986, while Gary and two
close friends were climbing, all three plummeted down
a hard icy face more than 1,500 feet. A rescue team
found the group three days later. His good friend
Jerry had died; Gary and Dave were evacuated to
hospitals in the US.
neck was broken and the nerve roots going to his left
arm were pulled out of the spinal cord, resulting in
paralysis of his left arm and shoulder. In the two
years following the accident, he was experiencing
intolerable pain and was on heavy medication. Gary
underwent surgery to repair his broken neck
(successful!) and highly risky surgery to alleviate
the chronic nerve pain (Duke University -
successful!). He also had experimental surgery at Duke
performed by Dr. Alan Friedman to regain partial
movement of his arm. Unfortunately, this operation was
not successful and Gary made the difficult decision to
have his paralyzed left arm amputated.
the past years Gary has resumed his outdoor pursuits,
climbing in Europe and South America and in 1997,
attempting Nepal's Lhotse, the 4th highest mountain in
the world. Since 1997, he has spent the majority of
time in Nepal and Tibet, trekking and climbing
throughout the high Himalaya. He and his wife Joni met
climbing Mt. Everest, Gary wanted to raise awareness
and support for the potential of people with
disabilities and to show that life and dreams
continue. The expedition was called Everest Expedition
is part one of his Q&A with questions from readers
of EverestNews.com. Submit your questions to email@example.com
A stupid question, but here it is. How can you climb
with one arm ? I mean, how do you do it?
answer that comes immediately to mind is that I am
fully aware of my own limits and capabilities.
Therefore, I do not put myself in situations that
are too dangerous for me and, most importantly, for my
friends or other climbers on the hill. Certainly, I
push myself as far as possible most of the time, but I
do so without being just plain stupid or
irresponsible. Also, I've fully accepted
that my vertical or very steep rock and ice climbing
days are mostly over, but to me there is so much
more to it than this. Just being in the
mountains climbing, trekking and just hanging out with
good friends, outside and in the hills, is what I
I noticed in Mike Trueman's dispatches last Spring, he
was saying the some Sherpas men are being overused and
put in dangerous conditions on the mountain. Strong
statements, without names (don't want to get you into
trouble), can you tell us more?
I know most people will agree totally with Mike on
this subject. Some Sherpa are being overused and
put in dangerous situations unnecessarily. Saying
this though, there are some really good expedition
outfitters here in the USA and abroad that treat their
Sherpas with the same respect as their clients. There
are also many independent climbers that hire Sherpas
privately that all treat them equally well. Most
all the time, the sherpas are on the front line,
breaking trail and establishing the routes for others
to follow. This, of course, puts them in a more
dangerous situation than normal. But again,
the reputable guys and gals, the reputable companies
and guides evaluate situations and make sound
decisions with the Sherpa with everyone's best
interest at heart. Its impossible for climbing,
trekking or anything for that matter to be totally
risk free; it just wouldn't be the same.
get back to the question, I really do not have any
strong statements, of course I can think of individual
situations that I've seen or heard about, but its not
for me to be the judge. In the west, we tend to
look at human life so very differently than
other cultures. Also, our success is sometimes
defined differently than other cultures. Is true
success getting to the summit at all cost, including
life, or is success measured on the safety of all
concerned and everyone returning to their
respective homes safely? Most of the time in our
society the answer is the latter, but this is not
the case for all.
When Babu died, what was the feeling on the mountain ?
We felt total sadness of course, when Babu died.
Babu is very popular in his own country, as well
as on the international stage. His death was
unbelievable at first, but surely put the
inherent dangers back into perspective. It's just an
absolute shame when another good person loses his
life. Babu will be missed by all. We wish
all the very best to his family.
I like the fact that you were low key in your
dispatches last year, compared to some. Tell us about
Everest Base camp compared to other mountains. Meaning
how climbers get along, live, etc.
It's sometimes so very difficult at Everest Base Camp.
There so many different personalities from around the
world dealing with life at altitudes of 17,000 plus,
plus. When you mix differing personalities, high
altitude, and Everest together, the cocktail is
not always so smooth. I've met some really, really good
people, and others that I probably would not have
dinner with on a consistent basis, but overall the
"gooduns" I've met far outweigh the others.
There are just so many more people, climbers,
assistants and money at Everest Base camp than the
other 8,000m mountains. I think it is fair to
say that overall most everyone gets along, its just
not broadcasted near as much as it should be.
Very rarely, you'll hear, "had a great lunch at
X's camp, wonderful people" or "I ran
into X in the icefall today, great
guy" or "met X for the first time
at Camp 01, very tight & very safe looking
team" or so on. We are all guilty to some degree
of being negative, and there's always room for more
positive vibes to be spread around and out.......
But hey, we don't have to be at EBC to do this!
Maybe one for your wife ! How hard is it on families
and love ones when a climber attempts Everest ?
I think being away is very difficult all the way
around for my family. I spend months and months
away from my wife, Joni, every year. I have probably
been away from her more than we've been together
since we got married a few years ago. It's really
tough sometimes and because most of my time is spent
in Nepal, one has the cultural readjusting to do as
well. I know I'm real difficult person to deal with
for a few weeks after my returning home. Its learning
how to adapt and readapt with each other that takes
the work. Very difficult to explain. We only try our
best. We'll be leading some of our treks
together and not be apart so much. I feel that most
everyone would agree that the big downside to climbing
Everest is being away for so long. Not just being
away, but being away from the ones that probably
assisted you the most with getting there in the
first place. Its tough!
What is it like to spend all that time, and then come
home without the summit?
Honestly, it took me a few weeks to get over not
making it to the summit. But then I kicked myself
in the butt, dusted myself off and thought about
the whole experience. There were far more positives
than negatives: everyone returned home safely, we had
a laugh, I learned a lot, met some really
special people. What else can you ask for?
Tell us about Tunc ? He seems like a great guy that
Tunc is a great guy, no doubt about it.
Determined, talented, focused, very charming and very
cute. I think Tunc or "Tunchy" (He'll kill
me for calling him this!) is in Chamonix at the
moment, climbing hard no doubt. I spent a considerable
amount of time with him and we're sure to hear
more about him far into the future. He will no
doubt accomplish great things. He loves climbing, the
mountains, his wife, his family (I feel like I know
them), climbing, and well... climbing. I was so glad
to see him as a member of the Ararat
you ever considered a clean up expedition to base camp
for "normal" people, well somewhat
"normal" people, us armchair climbers?
Yes, I have. Please call me or e-mail me to discuss
this further. Normal? There are no normal or somewhat
normal people that go to base camp! ha! Seriously
though, please contact me.
is next for Gary ? Will you try again in 2002 ?
I will be doing something that pertains to Everest
next Spring; I'll keep you posted. I'm finalizing the
details at the moment, and hopefully in the next week
or so plans will be completed. Then I'll know
exactly what I'm doing.
can someone like me be part of your expedition ?
First of all you would need to contact me. We can see
if we're the right fit for you and you for us. If
we're not, I'll happily point you in the right
direction to other outfitters that may be better
suited for you. A lot of this depends on previous
experience, personal requirements, your needs and
expectations. Give me a call, let me know what you're
interested in and we can go from there.... Gary
Part Two >>>>>