Local man climbs to Everest base camp
Last year, Cassville resident Dr. Larry Quinalty, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain rise in the world. This summer, he took on another world-famous mountain when he journeyed to the base camp of Mount Everest.
"After I completed the Mount Kilimanjaro climb, I thought of the Everest base camp and I knew I could do it," said Quinalty. "You just have to have the right mindset."
On June 7, Quinalty traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal, to begin his Everest adventure. After landing in Nepal, Quinalty's 10-person group, which included three marathon runners, met the Sherpa guides who would be travelling with them.
"The Sherpa people were amazing," said Quinalty. "Our head Sherpa's dad rescued three men from Everest in 1963."
After spending a day exploring several sites in Kathmandu, Quinalty's group embarked on a scenic flight to Lukla to begin their hike to the base camp.
"The airport in Lukla is known as one of the most dangerous in the world," said Quinalty. "The airstrip is only a little over 1,000 feet long and there is only enough room for about four airplanes to be at the airport at one time."
After landing in Lukla, while Quinalty's group enjoyed lunch, the Sherpa guides and the Nepalese people traveling with the group loaded tents, cooking equipment and other supplies on zokyos, which are similar to yaks.
The group of five women and five men, including Quinalty, began its 80-mile journey with a four-mile hike to Phakding. During this trek, Quinalty and his fellow adventurers crossed the first of many hanging bridges along the Everest path.
"The Sherpa people are very religious," said Quinalty. "When they stepped up to a bridge they touched the side with their right hand, said a prayer and then crossed the bridge."
The group camped in four season tents, which are rated for the cold, wet weather that the hikers experienced during the Everest trip. Quinalty recalled needing to break the ice off of the zipper of his tent in order to go outside at night.
"We had a meeting each night, and the Sherpas would tell us what time we would be getting up and ask how many wanted tea," said Quinalty. "They would wake us at around 5:30 or 5:45 a.m. each morning by shaking our tents."
Each member of the group was given either water or tea with their breakfast and a bowl of warm water to wash their hands. The group would usually finish breakfast and be hiking by 6:30 or 7 a.m. each day, said Quinalty.
On the first full day of hiking, Quinalty's group traveled past several traditional homes and through pine and cedar forests to reach the entrance of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park where they could view the peak of Thamserku.
Later in the day, the climbers traveled the steep path to Namche Bazaar, which is at 11,300 feet. The largest Sherpa village, Namche, has been used as a primary staging area for many major Himalayan expeditions.
While in Namche, group leader, Tupten Sherpa, allowed the adventurers to visit his home where he showed them a photo of President John F. Kennedy placing an honorary award on his father for the rescue of the three Mount Everest climbers. President Kennedy was assassinated around two months after the photo was taken, said Quinalty.
Day two of Quinalty's trip was used as a day to acclimatize to the altitude difference. The group hiked to Everest View Hotel, which is located at 12,400 feet, to view Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Mount Everest.
Over the next two days, the group traveled off of the standard base camp trail to visit a small hidden valley called Khumjung, which features a school and the only hospital in the Khumbu region. Both structures were built by Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first men to reach the Everest summit.
The group also visited Pangboche Monastery, the oldest monastery in the Everest region.
"The cooks always travelled ahead of us so that when we stopped to camp they had lunch ready," said Quinalty. "They would feed us protein and carbohydrate-based foods like porridge and rice cereal. It was always wet and it was always hot."
The cooks were also responsible for boiling water 20 minutes to ensure it was safe for the travelers to drink throughout the journey.
After spending a day hiking to around 14,000 feet, the group enjoyed a day of rest. They were allowed to participate in several different day hikes or simply catch up of sleep or take time to snap some breathtaking photos.
On day seven, the group ascended to Loboche, which is located at 16,269 feet. The following day, Quinalty's group traveled to the tiny village of Gorek Shep and then continued to the summit of Kala Patar. Located at 18,192 feet, the summit features incredible views of Mount Everest.
"I wore three layers all the time that I was there, and I wore rain gear often because of the cold, wet, cloudy mist," said Quinalty. "You also needed something to protect your feet and plenty of dry socks. Most people used hiking poles and you had to have something to shield your eyes."
The group visited the Everest base camp on day eight of the climb. The base camp featured the Everest glacier, which has moved around one foot over the last 50 years.
Although the base camp is less than two miles below the Mount Everest summit, it costs around $75,000 to climb further up the mountain, which is not open during this time of year, said Quinalty.
"Mount Kilimanjaro was difficult, but this was more difficult," said Quinalty. "When we reached 18,000 and 19,000 feet we had 50 percent oxygen.
"We hiked around eight miles each day," said Quinalty. "The path was steep. You were hiking on a 45 degree angle most of the time."
During the trek up to the base camp, the group travelled through the site of over 30 monuments that have been erected in honor of the individuals who lost their lives on Mount Everest, including Scott Fisher, a renowned climbing guide from Seattle, Wash., who along with seven others, perished during a storm on Mount Everest in 1996.
"As we hiked through the boulders we could see prayer flags," said Quinalty. "Some of them stretched across one-half mile valleys. At the top of the mountain we saw these humbling monuments with four sides that had plaques to commemorate the people who have died on the mountain.
"One in four people die climbing Mount Everest and around 80 percent of those people die on the way down," said Quinalty. "Around 90 percent of the people who die are cremated and the ashes are spread around the shrines, placed inside the shrines or put in the mortar."
The group also traveled past piles of stone prayer tablets that were created by the people who live along the Everest path. When travelling past these massive stone piles the group was required to pass to the right, which changed the pathway that they traveled on the return trip to Lukla.
"It was a little shorter trip coming back down," said Quinalty. "We came back a different way where we saw different villages, different terrain, different flowers and different kids.
"We crossed 18 suspended bridges on the last day," said Quinalty. "Some of them were as long as two football fields."
Quinalty said that the trip up to the Mount Everest base camp was more about the journey than about the actual climb or summit.
"It was amazing," said Quinalty. "Everybody who has ever gone to Mount Everest has walked that same path. I felt like I was walking through the pages of a history book."
After returning from his 19-day Mount Everest base camp trip, Quinalty embarked on a 70-mile trip across Ireland. During the trip he visited the sixth century monastic village at Glendalough, Cahir Castle, the megalithic stone circles of Beara Peninsula, Killarney National Park and Dingle Peninsula.