On May 29, 1953, Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first mountain climbers to stand on top of the tallest peak on Earth. "Awe, wonder, humility, pride, exaltation - these surely ought to be the confused emotions of the first man to stand on the highest peak on Earth, after so many others have failed. But my dominant reactions were relief and surprise," reported Hillary, attempting to sum up his climb. Hillary always considered himself and his accomplishments as ordinary.
After reaching the summit of Mt. Everest, Hillary conquered more difficult missions in Nepal. This country houses Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the Land, which Tibetan speakers refer to as Mt. Everest. In 1962 he founded the Himalayan Trust, a humanitarian nonprofit that raised $250,000 a year to help build hospitals, health clinics, airfields, and schools.
Hillary also demanded that mountain climbers from across the globe clean up after themselves, leaving Mt. Everest in a natural state instead of the waste heap it was quickly becoming. The United Nations honored him as one of its Global 500 conservationists in 1987 for these efforts and many others. Hillary remarked, "Adventuring can be for the ordinary person with ordinary qualities, such as I regard myself." Hillary's rich and adventurous life - albeit far from ordinary - ended on Jan. 11 at age 88.
Greg Mortenson carries the humanitarian mountain climber torch
In the late 1990s, while attending school in Bozeman, I went to a slideshow by Greg Mortenson, a behind-the-scenes local who was spending most of his time in Pakistan while calling Bozeman his home. I remember leaving thinking that this guy had a huge heart and his efforts would someday make a difference.
I did not, however, realize the extent of those efforts until recently finishing Three Cups of Tea. This book, written by Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, details the monumental efforts that Mortenson is undertaking to make a difference in this world, one school at a time.
Mortenson set out to summit K2 in Pakistan, regarded as one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb. After using up all his reserves attempting to summit K2 and failing, Mortenson stumbled down into a quiet village in Pakistan that helped nurse him back to health. He was overwhelmed by the kindness of the people living by such primitive means. While recovering his strength, he observed the children in the village attempting to study outside on a dirt floor. Mortensen vowed to come back and build a school.
More than 12 years later, he has completed 61 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He risks his own life in the process, and tirelessly moves forward to help stop violence in this world through education. The schools have helped educate more than 25,000 children including 14,000 girls who often having little or no educational opportunities. Mortenson's humantarian efforts have undoubtedly made this a safer world.
Outdoor Retailer Show
Last week, I attended the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City. I felt like Charlie wandering around the Chocolate Factory as I roamed, wide-eyed, through the Salt Palace.
Twice a year, practically every company in the outdoor industry showcases its latest and greatest products. Working for Metolius Mountain Products, a local climbing gear company, I helped set up the booth and talked to interested folks about our latest and greatest offerings including a new clothing line, a wicked cool single stem camming device, and an improved bouldering crash pad. I also had the opportunity to explore and eye the latest innovations from competitors and others producing all the gizmos, gadgets and accessories we all use and love on a daily basis in the Central Oregon backcountry.
Black Diamond's new alpine touring and telemark boot line and new bisphenol-A-free water bottles from Camelback were just a couple of product highlights from the show. It was also great to see much more work being done on sustainability in the outdoor industry. Many companies are working on using recycled products as well as making products that can be recycled. More thought also is going into the entire life-cycle process of a product from raw material sourcing and selection to manufacturing. A tremendous amount more can be done, but small steps are leading in the right direction. Consumer interest in and demand for green products drives the whole revolution.
Additional show highlights included two presentations sponsored by the Conservation Alliance. One was a talk by Dr. John Francis, "The Planetwalker," who did not ride in a plane, train, or automobile for 22 years and did not speak for 17 years attempting to make a difference conserving the pristine world in which we live. The other talk was by Andrew Skurka, National Geographic Adventure's "Adventurer of the Year" in 2007, who completed a 6,875-mile loop in 208 straight days through 12 national parks. More on these talks next week.