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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Making the final trip to base camp was harder than expected, which meant the group basically had to turn around almost as soon as they arrived, but it was still an emotional moment for the team.

“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the group,” recalled Ollie Blake. “It was a pretty emotional day for everybody. It was such a challenge, but that made getting there all the more special.

“From the third day I think we all knew we were in trouble, when we realized that we would have to carry the TrailRider more than we thought. There are a lot of stairs, and rough sections that are awkward, and you’d run into teams of yaks in the worst possible places. It’s a good thing we didn’t know what was coming, but kept telling ourselves that it would get easier.”

Some of the switchbacks were so steep and tight that they had no choice but to carry Pippa in the basket. She was actually lighter than their porters’ usual load, but it was a frightening experience.

“I knew coming in that I would have to surrender all my independence on a trip like this,” said Pippa, “but I remember being in the basket on this porter’s back and thinking that if he went over the side, I’d go over with him. When I was on the TrailRider, there’s sometimes four people helping you along so there are a lot of points of contact, but with the basket there was the one porter. That’s when you just take a deep breath and have faith in those around you.”

Ollie says the entire team was exceptional, but credits the guides for keeping the group motivated.

“They were as committed to this trip as we were,” he said. “They worked harder than anybody to get to base camp and back.”

For Rody, an accomplished marathon runner, the trip was made more difficult by the fact she contracted food poisoning early on. That illness turned into a cold and later the flu, as the altitude made it harder for her to rest and recover. She didn’t start to feel better until the group started to climb back down.

Unable to help out as much as she liked, other members of the team stepped up in all sorts of ways.

“We couldn’t have found 10 people more committed to our goal,” she said. “We had 14 people who had to agree to take a month off work, and pay about $4,000 out of pocket. In retrospect I think we could have found more sponsorship, but we wanted to get going as soon as we could.

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