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 Gary Guller: This is his Q&A, Part Two

When 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.

Gary 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.

Gary's 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. 

Over 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 in Nepal.

In 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 2001 "Anything is Possible". 

This is part Two of his Q&A with questions from readers of EverestNews.com.

Question: What sort of shape does one need to be in to 'trek' to Everest Base Camp ?

Gary: I always say that the better one is in shape before coming out to Nepal, the better the experience they will have. For an Everest Base type of trek, I would highly recommend a good 8-12 week "getting ready" period before coming out to Nepal. In addition to this, having a few longer days of 6-10 mile walking, carrying 10-15lb pack, etc. will get those muscles ready and iron out the kinks, if you like.  If you are interested in more specific info, I really like to discuss personally with whomever before suggesting a plan to get ready. Feel free to call me; everyone is different.

Question: I hear of people dying at Base camp or on the way it seems every year?

Gary: Unfortunately this true. People not only die trekking to base camp but die trekking full stop, everywhere. The higher altitudes in the Nepal Himalaya contribute to most deaths, I'm sure. The secret is to allow your body the time to acclimatize, and to eat, drink and then eat and drink some more. It baffles me to this day that trekkers endure sometimes over 30 hours by flight, months and months of planning, with a goal to reach Everest Base Camp, then they arrive and its rush, rush, rush.  The very last thing you want to be doing is rushing at altitude in Nepal, or anywhere for that matter. Kick back, enjoy the mountain beauty, stroll with the locals, absorb the surroundings and EAT EAT DRINK DRINK, and listened to your body.  If you feel slightly bad, relax.  If you do not improve, then descend.  If more people took a little more time on their approach to BC, 1) they would simply enjoy themselves more and 2) they would be a lot safer and get to base camp with a smile. Finally, I have had the best results with others and myself taking extra days if needed to acclimatize better or even descend lower for a couple of days. Most of the time, this is what's needed and the trip continues with much more enjoyment.  

Question: This year, I understand you were filming.

Gary: Well, it seems that a few people thought I was filming. In fact, we at Arun Treks were only hired to assist the film crew in Kathmandu, assist them with trekking to base camp and getting them all safely back home. The same as with any group that hires us.  Of course, they had more gear than most - ha!  It was great, though, for our Sherpa and local porters as it simply provided more work for them. The film crew was a fantastic group of people and I hope I cross paths with them again. At base camp we all had some good laughs.  Just nice people doing their job. 

Question: What was the film on the death of Mike Matthews?

Gary: Yes, the film is about this young man and unfortunately his life ended on Everest. After the film crew left base camp, they sent a nice e-mail thanking us for their our service. I think the film is coming out in the UK soon. 

Question: If one wants to climb Everest one day, where would one start (after the climbing guy)?

Gary: Eric Simonson has probably the best answer to this which I'm sure has been posted up on the EverestNews.com site. [Skills necessary for Mt. Everest].

Question: What is the typical Sherpa climber paid to climb Everest?

Gary: It ranges wildly from the bare minimum to very nice earnings, anywhere from $2,000.00-$10,000.00, depending on the particular Sherpa. There are also many ways Sherpa get paid that are rarely mentioned - in the form of salary, equipment allowance, insurance, trips abroad, education for their children and so on. I know we keep this info between us and the Sherpa and I know other operators do the same. But it's a little more complex than Oh, we pay $1,000.00 and that's it.  

Question: Do you see Sherpa climbers guiding clients one day? I know a few like Babu have guided several people. But as I understand it, most just carry loads, fix the ropes, and other activities, I would consider non-guiding today.

Gary: Absolutely, Sherpas have always guided clients. A lot of times, though, Sherpas do not speak enough English, Spanish, Turkish, Russian or whatever to communicate effectively as one needs to with say western clients.   Nor, do many foreigners speak the Sherpa language. So, most, not all, commercial operators tend to hire competent leaders, guides, assistants, etc. to assist the Sherpa with and for the clients, who ultimately are footing most of the bill.

Question: It seems a big gamble to go for the Summit first? This year the trend of the Sherpas laying the rope on the North and South sides continued. Is it fair to have the Sherpas do this work, and then claim you have "Summitted Everest"?

Gary: Well, where do you start with this question?  Or for that matter, where do you end? Look, let's cut straight to it - expeditions rely on the Sherpa and the Sherpa count on the expeditions.  Summitting Everest: hell yeah - I look forward to the day when I can say I summitted Everest with the assistance of everyone involved, Sherpa, other team members, good weather, the cook, the porter way back in Pheriche, the yak, and so on and so on.... The point being, I want to know in my heart that I climbed to the top in the best way I could without being carried, short roped or hand held.  Everyone needs assistance on Everest to some degree.  Maybe it's time to start giving more credit to those who gave the assistance. 

Question: Who was your favorite guys (or girls) on the mountain this year that was not on your team ?and why ?

Gary: I gotta say most everyone I met was really, really nice to me and to others. I enjoyed everything from sharing meals and birthdays at base camp to trudging up to camp 2 with many different folk. Most everyone had time to say a quick hello and have a brief chat. There are some really, really good folks out there that spend most of their seasons in Nepal. As I said before, the negative stuff is more interesting perhaps in the press, but there is really is a lot of goodness on the mountain. 

Question: Who is your favorite climbers of all time, and why?

Gary: The list is huge: Bonnington, Scott, Messner, Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Loretan, my friends Kipa & Nima, plus plus plus. I admire anyone that just pushes themselves as far as possible whilst remaining humble with their feet firmly on the ground. 

Q&A Part One >>>>>

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