Sean Swarner takes on Everest: A Cancer's Survivors Journey
to the World's highest Summit
Sean Swarner: He has done
The Q&A: Questions
from readers of EverestNews.com....
Question: What was it
like ? I mean compared to climbing in Colorado, it
must have been huge?
Sean: It can't compare to climbing in
Colorado. Well it can, but in a much more elaborate and intense way.
The rocky mountains are in their own category and compared to the
Himalayan range, it's like climbing in the book "The Hobbit" or
climbing in my dreams. It was spectacular. I want to go back just to
enjoy the solidarity and return to the complete serenity and beauty of
Question: Why do you think you made
it the first time when so many others fail ?
Sean: Why do I think I made it the
first time when so many others fail? One word... luck. as others have
said, you don't climb Everest, you sneak up on it, then run like heck
;) without the incredible weather, it would have been impossible to
summit. and as for my luck? Well here's an example... camp 3 on the
summit push, we were supposed to go to camp 4 on the 14th and then
summit on the 15th. I was so sick on the 14th I couldn't put one foot
in front of the other. I couldn't concentrate enough to do it and
really thought it was over and I was heading back down unsuccessful.
HOWEVER as my luck would have it, everyone who went up on the 14th
didn't summit. The weather turned bad and not one person made it on
the 15th. The 15th came around and I felt incredible. We made it to
camp 4 and then the summit on the 16th. again... luck. another aspect
was the incredible support I felt from not only my brother but
everyone else who was around me and everyone who was in my heart
pushing me forward. and last but not least, to quote Sir Edmund
Hillary, "I think motivation is the single most important factor in
any sort of success. Physical fitness is important, technical skill is
importantů But a sort of motivation, the desire to succeed, to stretch
yourself to the utmost, is the most important factorů"
Question: Did you get to meet to meet
Pete Athans? Apa Sherpa? What were they like?
Sean: I did meet Pete Athans and Apa
Sherpa. Pete was very down to earth and very nice. I passed him a
couple of times in the icefall and met him again at camp 2. He was
nothing but hospitable and encouraging, as was Brent Bishop. Without
the nat geo team, I wouldn't have had a spot on a climbing permit and
this wouldn't have been possible. Apa... let me tell you a couple of
things about this guy. He's freaking unbelievable. He and I got to be
pretty good friends. We met through Tashi Tensing. He's Tenzing
Norgay's grandson. Apa is a very reserved, quite, fun-loving person
who is incredibly humble. If someone over here in the states had the
status he does over there, they'd be incredibly arrogant. Not Apa, he
Question: What "prepared" you for
Sean: What prepared me for this? to
be honest... my entire life. There are a number of things I did that
"prepared" me for this climb such as lugging 150 lbs up Longs' peak
once a week and over 200 up and down steps every other day. I also did
a lot of visualization and positive self-talk. However, I really think
my entire life of experiencing rock bottom, the worst odds, and always
pulling out of it ahead, and my never-say-die attitude attributed
somewhat to the success of the expedition ;)
Question: What would you recommend
for the rest of us dreams that want to go, but don't do it?
Sean: what would I recommend for
others who dream of doing it but don't? plan something and do it. Put
your dreams up there with the stars and go for it. I've been told that
it's better to make huge dreams and goals and fail than it is to make
small goals and succeed. if you can't do Everest, do something that is
Question: Is Everest easy now? It is
the Yak route, with the Sherpas doing the route and hauling the gear?
Sean: I wouldn't say that Everest is
the yak route and easy... if it were, people wouldn't have died on it.
In fact, my Sherpa told me that back near the early '90s the icefall
wasn't that bad and it was just a slab of ice and not all the seracs.
Not sure if he was just telling stories, but still. there are a lot of
things that can go wrong on Everest which could end up killing you.
It's also very psychologically and emotionally draining. But again,
the Sherpas do not get the credit they deserve. They are the ones who
really climb the mountain. They set up camps on the mountain and haul
equipment from B.C. to higher camps. I WILL admit however that I tried
to do whatever I could to help them out. I helped set up the camps and
I carried as much as I could. Towards the end of the trip, they were
calling me Dawa Dorje. I was born on a Monday... Dawa, and Dorje means
power, strength, luck...
Question: Did you ever feel like you
were going to die?
Sean: I never felt like I was going
to die, but I DID seriously think about it. When peter legate tumbled
to his death, it was the first time death was real to me
(mountain-wise). I thought, "god, this could happen to me!!!" Other
times throughout the climb, however, you can't think about it. You
have to remain positive and focus on what's going on now and not what
could happen... that could make me slip-up enough just to have
something happen and make me second guess myself if something DID go
wrong. That split second could cause me to not react correctly and
then... well.. no more me.
Question: What was it like in base
camp when Peter Legate died?
Sean: and on that note... when peter
died, the people I was with became very solemn and it was really a
wake-up call that it could happen to anyone. my friend Randy and I
ended up crying as I'm sure a lot of people did. Because like I said,
it was the first time death was incredibly real. We made a memorial of
his death the very next day in the Everest memorial between Lobuche
and Tukla. It... very eye-opening.
Question: Was climbing Everest a
spiritual experience for you? If so can you try to share those times?
Sean: Was climbing Everest a
spiritual experience... Wow, that's a really tough question to answer
and then explain. Without a doubt, climbing Everest was an incredibly
spiritual experience. I don't think you can even travel through the
Himalayan range... nay... even fly over them w/o having an experience
like that. I can't begin to explain how alive it made me feel. knowing
I was going to make it to the summit of the highest peak in the world
was something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I saw the peak
and knew I was going to make it and that at that moment nothing seemed
to matter. I didn't worry about my debt. I didn't worry about what was
going to happen in my future. I had no concern for everyone suing
everyone else in the states. It didn't even cross my mind. When I
stood on top of the world my eyes were full of the happiest tears I've
ever had. I had so many people pushing me to the top and so many
people for whom I was doing this. It re-opened my eyes to what was
really important, loving people around you, treating those as you'd
like to be treated. Going out of your way to help people and not
expecting a thank you. Doing things because you like helping and
because you know that person may eventually help someone else. Smiling
to strangers and trying to make them feel comfortable. Not being hung
up on small things, and not worrying about what others think about
you... all this was reinforced into my belief system while I was in
Nepal. and it was the most incredible experience of my life. I
recommend traveling to Nepal and up into the Himalayan mountains
before you die... to EVERYONE.
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