Everest base camp no barrier for expedition 

Rise Above Barriers brings wheelchair-bound woman to legendary camp

click to enlarge Rising Above Members of the Rise Above Barriers expedition carry Pippa Blake to the lookout at Kala Patar. Photo by Jon Misovic.
  • Rising Above Members of the Rise Above Barriers expedition carry Pippa Blake to the lookout at Kala Patar. Photo by Jon Misovic.

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Her sons kept her dream alive through the years, until Rody — newly graduated with her Masters degree in Rural Planning — put her career on hold for a year to formally plan and coordinate an expedition to Everest. In short order they had recruited a team to assist on the mission, hired a guiding outfit, and landed a few sponsors to help with the expense.

They also expanded the scope of the mission to include a few other goals:

• To leave a blueprint of the journey for other travelers to Nepal with mobility issues;

• To purchase a Black Diamond model of a TrailRider which they would donate to Recreation Integration Victoria;

• To raise awareness of accessibility issues for people with disabilities;

• To raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis;

• To motivate others living with disabilities to pursue similar outdoor adventures — maybe not to Everest Base Camp, says Pippa, but there are lots of excellent opportunities for camping and trekking right in B.C.

In the process of organizing the trip they founded a new organization called the Rise Above Barriers Society.

The TrailRider was the key to the trip. Designed by Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan — a quadriplegic after breaking his neck skiing at age 19 — the TrialRider is a one-wheeled device that can be simultaneously pushed and pulled through all types of terrain, and then easily folded and carried by a single person. The expedition team tested it successfully on a loop of Garibaldi Lake over the summer, using modified disk brakes to control their speed on the way down.

The expedition took place over 21 days instead of the usual two weeks, to give the team more time to transport Pippa to base camp and back. For all of the team’s combined experience and athleticism, it was a good choice — according to their own guides, the husband and wife outfit of Lhapka Dorjee and Lhapka Doma, this was the first time that their company has managed to bring such a large group all the way to base camp and back without someone pulling out along the way with altitude sickness, illness or injury.

Ollie and Kristina started the trip a little earlier than the rest of the team, hiking the first seven days of trail to the famous runway at Lukla, at an altitude of 2,850 metres — about 400 metres higher than the peak of Blackcomb. They met Pippa and the rest of the expedition on the runway, where most trips to Everest get underway.

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