First Ascent of Mt. Everest Planned by Sherpa Climber-Amputee and his American Friend
Thanks to a visionary executive, a legendary mountaineer-amputee, and a dedicated team of climbing friends from across the US, a Sherpa’s dream to climb Mt. Everest in a special way will be “reloaded” next month.
Nawang Sherpa, gravely injured in a traffic accident four years ago, now sports a high tech prosthetic leg and dreams of climbing Mt. Everest. He lives in the high mountains of the Khumbu region of Nepal and makes his living as a Sirdar (trekking guide). Thomas McMillan is his mountaineering friend and former client from the San Francisco Bay area. Tom has an extraordinary chance to climb Mt. Everest, and wants to share that with Nawang. As devoted friends—beyond the borders of nationalities, cultures, and physical abilities—they expect to reach the summit via the South Col route some time in May 2004.
This will be the first time that Mt. Everest (29,035 feet; 8,850 meters), or any of the 14 peaks in the world over 8,000 meters (26, 247 feet), will be climbed by a person with a prosthetic leg. It will be a monumental success not only for Nawang, but for millions of other people around the world who struggle to resume their lives and careers after severe injuries.
Nawang had planned to climb Mt. Everest last year with Ed Hommer, the renowned American mountaineer who in 1999 was the first person to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska with two prosthetic legs. The plans were dashed in September 2002 when Mr. Hommer was hit by spontaneous rockfall and died while training on Mt. Rainier.
But a new chance to climb Mt. Everest emerged in 2003, as the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first ascent by Sir Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (May 29, 1953). Tom McMillan, an experienced rock climber, mountaineer, and database developer for San Francisco-based AMB Property Corporation, received a surprising challenge one day from AMB’s Chairman and CEO, Hamid Moghadam.
“He made me an offer I simply could not refuse—if I would carry the AMB flag to the summit of Mt. Everest, he would be the lead sponsor for the expedition, offering a personal pledge that would serve as a challenge for others.” Tom describes how that offer connected with Nawang’s dream. “I immediately thought of my friend Nawang Sherpa, who wants so much to climb that mountain, and how great it would be to stand on the summit with him—as Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had fifty years ago. So I accepted Hamid’s generous challenge. This was the genesis of the Everest: Friendship Beyond Borders Expedition.”
Hamid Moghadam gained his appreciation for the beauty and challenges of high mountains while attending high school in Switzerland. He sees this expedition as an innovative way to motivate and challenge AMB and its worldwide workforce. Moghadam said, "The Friendship Beyond Borders expedition embodies the spirit of AMB and our people to achieve great challenges in our personal and professional lives. It is a privilege to be a part of Tom and Nawang's support team."
The expedition will also motivate and challenge disabled people around the world who are committed to rebuilding their lives and careers. And it will certainly challenge all of us to reconsider what might be preventing success in our own lives. The team is expected to arrive at Everest Base Camp (17,300 feet; 5,273 meters) at the beginning of April and begin its acclimatization regime—climbing up a few thousand feet, climbing back down, climbing up again and sleeping one night, climbing back down, etc.. Only in this way will their bodies be able to successfully and safely adjust to the increasingly thin air as they move up the mountain. The team is expected to return to Kathmandu in early June 2004. Tom McMillan and his wife, Linda, have climbed together around the world and are long-time residents of Marin County north of San Francisco.