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No Barriers Podcast Episode 112: Mt. Everest 20th Anniversary



On May 25th, 2001 history was made when the first blind person stood on the summit of Mt. Everest. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their epic achievement, Erik Weihenmayer chats with members of his world-class Everest mountaineering team about the day they made history.

Mountaineers and others scoffed at the notion that Erik Weihenmayer, blind since 14, could climb Mt. Everest. They thought he would be a danger to himself and his team. But, on that day in 2001 Erik and his team, through preparation, personal sacrifice, and the belief that they would succeed, stood together on the top of the world.

To celebrate this milestone Erik and members of their record-holding team reunited virtually and shared fond memories and recounted their struggles. Most importantly, they reflected on the advice their team leader, PV Scaturro, gave them on their descent: “Don’t make Everest the greatest thing you ever do.”

Resources:

Watch Michael Brown’s documentary film, Farther Than the Eye Can See on Amazon

Outside Magazine

Luis Benitez

PV Scaturro

Brad Bull (and his father, Sherman Bull)

Kami Tenzing Sherpa

Kevin Cherilla & K2 Adventure Travel

Jeff Evans

I came out and said, “Guys, this ain’t going to work. If we can’t even get him to Camp one. How are we going to climb Mount Everest? We’re not even on the mountain yet.” Then, I said, “Oh, let’s just think about it.” Walked back in the tent, and I laid down and it’s dark. And I remember, we isolated there and you go, “P.V., are you awake?” I go, Yeah.” He says, “I’m not going to give up.” He says, “I heard everything you said. I’m not going give up.”

 

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Episode Transcript

Pasquale : I came out and said, "Guys, this ain't going to work. If we can't even get him to Camp one. How are we going to climb Mount Everest? We're not even on the mountain yet." Then, I said, "Oh, let's just think about it." Walked back in the tent, and I laid down and it's dark. And I remember, we isolated there and you go, "P.V., are you awake?" I go, Yeah." He says, "I'm not going to give up." He says, "I heard everything you said. I'm not going give up."

Erik : It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, climbed the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon, and I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a "No Barriers Life" to define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. And that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in, in the summit exists a map. That map, that way forward is what we call "No Barriers."

Erik : Hey, everyone. This is totally awesome to be here and celebrating our 30th anniversary of our Mount Everest climb back in 2001 and celebrating it with our No Barriers community and celebrating it with a five folks from the Everest team. There might be others listening like Brad, maybe your dad's listening or something, so sorry, we couldn't get everyone on.

Erik : But first I want to say thank you to everyone on the team, 13 Westerners, eight Sherpas, Kami Tenzing Sherpa including... and so, you guys changed my life. Thank you so much. And I'm really excited to have you guys on today. And we got P.V., Pasquale Scaturro, Pasquale Vincent Scaturro, our team leader from 2001. We got Michael Brown, our filmmaker and a part of the team as well. And we have Luis Benitez, who was a young buck back then in the day. Hard to imagine. And Brad Bull and Kevin Cherilla, who was our Basecamp manager, so it's really great to hear you guys.

Erik : I'll start by asking this, 20 years later, you guys were just talking about earlier? Do you look the same? Does everyone look the same? From a blind guy's perspective you all look the same.

Luis : Yeah, we all look the same, Erik. Completely the same. P.V. got younger, I think.

Erik : P.V. got a lot younger looking.

Pasquale : A lot less gray hair now.

Erik : Somebody said to me. They said I saw your Everest video and they go, "Wow, you look so young." And I went, "Well, what do I look now?" And they're like, "I don't know how to answer that."

Brad : I really hope you guys all smell better than 20 years ago, that's all.

Erik : Harsh. Right? Well, alright, we want to dive right in. And again, thank you, everyone, part of the No Barriers community for listening. So, I'm going to start with P.V. How did you and I meet P.V. and where? Do you remember? And why did you have an interest in leading this team to get a blind guy to the summit of Mount Everest when a lot of people thought it was sort of stupid or crazy or way too high of a risk?

Pasquale : Well, I don't know if you remember this, Erik, but you remember the OR show in Salt Lake City?

Erik : Yeah, [crosstalk 00:04:54] show.

Pasquale : And I had a friend Jim Slade. Remember Jim Slade?

Erik : Yeah.

Pasquale : And he comes to me and I was at this trade show and he goes, "Hey." Him and I met in Salt Lake City. He says, "Yo, do you know this guy named Erik Weihenmayer?" I said, "Yeah, I think I've heard of him." He says, "Yeah, I know. He's a real good friend." And he took me and we met each other in the hallway, the main aisle of the show. And we got together and started to talk. And then he told me about you were climbing this and you were climbing, you've climbed Denali and everything. And I asked you if you'd ever climbed Everest. And you go, "No." And then I thought, "I asked you would you like to or have you thought about it?" I think I phrased it, "Have you thought about it?" And that was the first time.

Pasquale : And then later then, we got back to Denver. We both lived there and then you called me and we talked on the phone. You asked me if I was serious? And I said, "I don't know." And guess who the first person I called was after that.

Erik : My dad.

Pasquale : No, I called Brad.

Erik : Brad.

Pasquale : Brad, knew right there. Didn't I?

Brad : Hoping this guy was going to talk you out of it or what?

Pasquale : I don't know. You were the first person I called, Brad, the very first person.

Erik : What was your interest in in this? You know what I mean? You had already gone to Everest. You had already summitted once, so what was the excitement around this project? Because I remember it as well at the OR show, you saying, "Hey, do you ever climb Everest?" I said, "No." And he goes, you said, "Do you want to?" And I go, "Yeah, I'd like to." And then you were like, "You want me to lead your team?" And I was like, "Yeah, dude." And you were like, "Yeah, dude." There was a lot of "dudes" back then. So, you were excited, right? Off the bat.

Pasquale : Yeah, I like challenges. And I thought it would be a challenge, plus without being corny about it, Erik, and you know that. I really thought that if you could summit Everest, it would be one of the great mountaineering feats ever, because you and I had spent a lot of time talking about it, Erik, remember?

Erik : Yeah.

Pasquale : We didn't just say, "Let's do it, man." We talked about how to fund it and how we're going to do. It was planned.

Erik : Well, since you brought that up, the funding. We went to the National Federation of the Blind. We met the President, Dr. Marc Maurer. Would you remember the questions he asked us? They were pretty wild.

Pasquale : I remember Jack-

Erik : Because [crosstalk 00:07:05] funding from the National Federation for the Blind, of the Blind, excuse me, which we wound up doing. They put up a lot of money. It was blind people doing bake sales and car washes [crosstalk 00:07:15] to the summit, so it was a huge deal for them. Brad, so when you got that phone call from PV, were you thinking, "Well, I could think of like 100 other things I'd rather do." Because I know, you and Reba were engaged and/or married already., so yeah. You had a lot more responsibility than the rest of us dirtbags.

Brad : Well, P.V. is hard to say no to, for one, just in general, but I think it took a little convincing because like you said my life is kind of ramping up responsibility wise, and all that. But end of the day, it was like you climb big mountains and stuff and climbers get kind of a rap for being selfish because really, what's the point? And it just seemed like a great way to leverage something I love doing. I mean, I want to hang with you guys and do that kind of thing. And it just seemed and P was getting amped before about how this was just really ambitious adventure. I mean, it was like, legit.

Brad : Sometimes those bold things, you just have to, there's 100 reasons not to, but then you just got to figure out how to rationalize it. And for me, it was something, I'd been there, I knew the route. I could lend a small piece to the bigger picture puzzle. And it just, it all fell into place. And fortunately I married a very understanding woman and-

Erik : Who came to Basecamp and hung out. She congratulated for hanging out with Kevin Cherilla for three months.

Brad : Absolutely.

Erik : So, Michael Brown, our filmmaker, how did you connect with the project? Because this wasn't your first time on Everest either. In fact, your first time on Everest you were making a film, I don't know. I don't want to use the word tragic, but it was a comical. There was a lot of challenge, let's say.

Erik : Yeah, well, you got invited by one of our sponsors I remember, if I remember correctly. And you were going to bring the first high definition video camera to the summit of Everest, which was a huge thing back then. I think that camera was like close to 25 pounds and all the equipment and everything that came along with it, so your job was way harder than any of ours.

Erik : Film, what was the name of it? You got to plug it, bro.

Erik : Nice.

Brad : It's classic. It's like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Erik : We were all like brothers, so it's nice. And so, Michael, I'm glad you were there. And one of the things I really appreciated that I got to know very quickly about you was that yes, you are a filmmaker, you're trying to make a great story. But at the same time, you were really just straight up team member like if it hit the fan, you would have been right there helping out. So, that really was something that taught me a lot about leadership is that sure, we filled these specific roles, but when it comes right down to it, you got to be sort of nimble and fluid and care about the team and be connected to the team. You can't be a separate entity.

Erik : Yeah. Luis Benitez, you were, as I mentioned in the earlier conversation, a young buck. You had been to the Himalayas I think once or twice. But you were kind of a young guy, and we thought we needed a strong back. They say strong back or no. What do they say? Strong back, weak IQ?

Luis : That sounds about right, yeah.

Erik : So, we thought you would be awesome. I think P.V. had met you. So, how did you get involved and then how did you see your role on the team as a young guy in his 20s with all these old guys?

Luis : Yeah. No. It was interesting. I had been on an expedition in the Annapurna region, on a mountain called Gangapurna, which is between Annapurna 2 and 3 with a small team from Colorado, where I'd worked as an Outward Bound instructor, so it was a bunch of Colorado Outward Bound school instructors. And P.V. and I shared a Sherpa in common, who had worked on his Everest expedition, worked on our Gangapurna expedition and just asked me very simply, "Would you mind carrying this present back to Denver to P.V.?"

Luis : And I brought the gift for P.V. back to Denver in his big shiny office downtown in Denver. I went down, found a parking spot, went up, sat in his nice corner office. And he said, "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you. So, what are you doing? What are you about? What's your story?" And I told him what I was up to. And I asked him the same. What was going on? What he was up to? And sure enough, that's when he mentioned that, the trip he was putting together with you. And I didn't know how, I didn't know if. All I knew was I was going to bug the hell out of P.V. until he put me on that trip.

Pasquale : Luis, you were the only person out of everybody on the team we really didn't know. That wasn't an outsider, but people we hadn't climbed with.

Erik : I mean, that's something outside I learned from you. It's really cool to invite younger people who may be were "outsiders" or had a little bit less experience in the Himalayas, but it's like their big chance to cut their teeth in this incredible environment. And so, I was so glad to have been able to provide that for you, Luis. And you came through in ways that are hard to describe. You kicked butt in amazing ways. And we'll talk about those.

Erik : So, let's go to Kevin Cherilla. Kevin, I invited you as our Basecamp manager. Now, that's not necessarily the most glamorous job in the world. So, one, what were all the jobs that you had to do at Basecamp to support the team? And then secondly, was that weird, because I know you're not a guy with an ego but I just think it might have been weird to know everyone was going up to the summit, and you're going to be at Basecamp supporting.

Erik : And I remember fondly, you and Kami and a bunch of the team Sherpas coming out and meeting I said that base of the Icefall or even way into the Icefall with hot tea. And man, we sure appreciated that, buddy.

Erik : Kami Tenzing Sherpa. Kami was our head [inaudible 00:16:18]. He's the head Sherpa. He was a huge part of the team. I'd say responsible for our success as much as Kevin and P.V. And it was a lot of wrangling to get the support team of Sherpas. I know there's some fear and superstition in the Sherpa community about getting a blind person to the summit. So, Kami, you are amazing to actually recruit these really strong Sherpa team to support us on the climb.

Erik : There you go.

Erik : Cool. Was that hard recruiting the Sherpas?

Erik : And Kami is in Kathmandu right now.

Erik : Well, thank you, Kami.

Erik : All right.

Erik : One of my prosthetic eye.

Pasquale : So, Erik, you realized that when we came back, from [inaudible 00:19:36], people didn't think were blind because by the way you were walking they thought you were faking it. And that's when you took your eyeball out, in the room we showed Kami.

Erik : I'd say just to settle this dispute, "Here you go." Kami, you were so instrumental in making everything happen and supporting the team and organizing the team and doing everything behind the scenes and in front of this team. So, we've climbed many times since then back to Ama Dablam two years ago and Losar ice climb and Lobuche and all kinds of things. So, Kami is a good brother to me. And Luis, so... actually before Luis, I want to get to an honorary team member, my dad.

Erik : So, I was really proud that my brother Mark and Eddi and my dad accompanied us to Basecamp and there's a video that Michael, you sent out recently of me saying goodbye to my family and hugging my dad. So, Dad, can you unmute? Are you there? And what were you thinking at that last hug?

Ed : Well-

Erik : And you have a bad hip dad, so you lift your way to basecamp, so that was very impressive.

Ed : Yeah, I later had a new hip put in, but Everest finished it off, the old one. But this was a pretty life-touching moment for me. There, of course, was a risk. I mean, it may not have been risk that a lot of people said that he's going to kill everybody on the team and kill a lot of people around him, but it was a risk. There's a risk for every one of the climbers. And so, when we had that last hug, as you were heading off into the Icefall, you were going up. And I was going down, and then to come back here and follow you as best I could through sat calls and internet and everything else.

Ed : Yeah, it was a pretty emotional moment. Because Brad, you faced this with your dad, but you were together. Erik and I weren't together, so I wasn't positive that I would see him again, not to be overly dramatic. But that's the case as it was with Everest. So, yeah, Michael, there was a picture that, as you said you had, it was just of that hug at Basecamp. I want to say one thing, which is that, I've thought so many times about how Everest was the launching pad for every one of you guys. I mean, there were achievements before, but basically, Everest was a launching pad for everybody to do great things in life.

Erik : For sure. Thanks, Dad. It was a catalyst for every one of us. So, this question is for Luis. You, I think went through the Khumbu Icefall with me the first time. That's the section that Kami mentioned crossing ladders. It's a very volatile section of the mountain. Many people maybe don't know that you don't cross through the Khumbu Icefall once, you cross through it like 10 times to go up and down and set up your camps and get a climatized, which is getting used to less than less oxygen. And that first trip took me 13 hours.

Erik : And I remember getting to the top of it, and I was just almost ready to pass out and tripped over a little crevasse. And I think you had a ski pole in your hand, you tried to grab me and you beat me in the nose with that ski pole. And I remember there's [crosstalk 00:23:19] scar on my face. Do you remember that moment? And I crawled into the tent, and I think P.V. took my crampons off. I was so exhausted. I couldn't even take my crampons off. You want to relive that moment, you and P.V.?

Luis : I'd prefer not to, but since you brought it up, I might as well [crosstalk 00:23:38].

Erik : Yeah, might as well.

Luis : So, I mean, for those of you that don't know a lot about Everest, the Icefall is probably one of the most hazardous parts of the climb. It's the terminus of a very active glacier and it's like walking through a collapsing icefield. And Erik, one of the things that we've discovered about each other's rhythms and patterns in mountains is that for you to really hit your groove, you need to understand the terrain and have covered it a couple of times and be able to understand how to sort out a pattern of movement. And the first time through, there's just no pattern. There's no way to achieve that pattern. So, hence the 13 hours getting to the Icefall, a really long day and I'll never forget. When you get to the top of the Icefall, it flattens out but then there's still crevasses that you have to step over and there's fixed lines and we're clipped into the lines.

Luis : And the rest of the team is at Camp 1. We're coming in the sun's going down. Mike has all the cameras set up. They're ready for the big arrival at Camp 1 for the first time. You put a foot into the crevasse, fell forward. I reached out to grab you and the ski pole hanging around my wrist launches up and clocks you in the nose and gives you a bloody nose. So, we kind of recovered enough to the point where, "Listen, we'll get you all cleaned up when we get to camp." Camp is only 10 minutes away.

Luis : And I remember we came around the last little corner, everybody's clapping and applauding and then Mike took one look at your face and quietly turned all the cameras off and everybody went back to their tents. And that's when you, you got into your turn, I went back to my tent to feel miserable. And then that's when P.V. came over and started taking off your crampons. That was not a fun day.

Erik : That was a low point, wasn't it, for us all? Yeah, yeah.

Luis : [crosstalk 00:25:20].

Pasquale : You know what? We just didn't know what to expect. And when we got into it-

Luis : What's going on everybody? It's okay. You were [crosstalk 00:25:25].

Brad : I have a different memory of that moment, even though I know. I mean that memory has so many great emotions, all swirled together at the exact same moment. But my recollection was it that was like the second or third time you tried to go through the Icefall?

Erik : Yes.

Brad : And at least once or twice, we turned around, because it just took too long. We're like, and that was going to be a big deal. If we couldn't get Erik through the Icefall, that was to be the end of the trip. Like, why even bother all the work? To me, it was like, "Okay, we've got some legs now. This may actually happen if we can just keep going." I remember the bloody mess and Luis was nice back then. He's like, "Oh, I'm really sorry," and all that. And Erik's like, "It's okay." So, that sparked my belief that we, this ragtag group, could make it happen.

Pasquale : Well, when we got Erik, when we got... and I think you and I had spoken about this. When we got there, hours and hours and hours before you got there. We had gone up to Camp 1 and we had set everything up. And "Where's Erik? Where's Erik?" Then finally towards dark, it was like, it's almost dark when you got there.

Erik : It's always dark P.V.

Pasquale : So Erik, so listen, so he gets there. And I get out of the tent, and we were making some soup. And I looked at you and you looked like hell. You were dead tired. Remember that, Brad? His hair was disheveled. Blood was-

Brad : He was [crosstalk 00:26:50] had done.

Pasquale : Blood was coming down his face and I grabbed him. We put him in the tent. And I laid you back and I took your crampons off. And you just laid back. And I said, "You need water?" "No, I just need to rest. I need to rest." And I sat you, I kind of put you in your sleeping bag. And then I walked out of the tent. I got out waited a while. And then if you guys remember, we had a meeting. You remember the meeting we had?

Pasquale : And I came, I said, "Guys, this ain't going to work. If we can't even get him to Camp one. How are we going to climb Mount Everest? We're not even on the mountain yet." And I said, "Maybe there's something we're missing here. Maybe what we do is, let's just leave him here. We go down, bring everything up, and don't go through the Icefall again. Let's just leave him here and we'll just push on from here up. We're going to have to do that."

Erik : Forever?

Pasquale : What's that?

Erik : Forever?

Pasquale : Forever, forever. No, we weren't even talking about bringing you back. We're going to leave you in Camp 1. Then I said, "Oh, let's just think about it." Walked back in the tent. And I laid down and it's dark. I know it's always dark, Erik, but it's dark. And I remember, I just laid there and you go, "P.V., you awake?" I go, "Yeah." He says, "I'm not going to give up." He says, "I heard everything you said." He says, "I'm not going to give up." Do you remember that?

Erik : Yeah, I do.

Pasquale : And I'm

Luis : We heard that from our tent. And I think that's when I screamed over for the thousandth time, "Sorry, Erik."

Pasquale : You were not going to give up Erik. And that, at that point in time, I think that was a pivotal, really impacted point of time then. Because then we went down. Of course, the next time you came up, you did it in half time. And then the last time you did it, you blew through there, we didn't even stop. I think you did the whole thing in four hours to Camp 2 or something after that. Remember?

Erik : Yeah, you get stronger on that mountain. Despite the fact that I lost a couple gallons of blood. Thank you, P.V. and Luis and Brad. So, Michael Brown, when all of this stuff was happening, you're the filmmaker, you're looking for a story. I mentioned how hard it is for the film team. You were running out like an hour before everyone else and getting set up in these scary, precarious situations like in the Khumbu Icefall where nobody really wants to hang out. Just talk about that experience from your lens.

Erik : Don't [crosstalk 00:30:04].

Erik : We're going to get on that.

Pasquale : You walked back down several steps and we redid the shot. And I'm very thankful for that, because that shot was important for the film. So yeah, there's a lot of aspects of being a filmmaker. And the same in the Grand Canyon, I think, you said the same thing to me. You told me, you said, "I really want this experience to be amazing, so don't ruin it." And once again, I took it to heart, and it makes making a film hard because it is easier to make a film if you can order people around and tell them exactly where to be and what to do. But I think probably not telling you that very often only when necessary.

Erik : Yeah. Thank you, Michael. So, Brad, jumping ahead. So, you did something really amazing on the summit day. And that was when we got to below the South summit, there were fixed lines running up the mountain, and the ones that you thought I wanted to use were to the right, and they were buried by the snow, from the monsoons. There may be buried in a foot of snow and you ripped those out. Do you remember that experience? Do you remember that?

Brad : I think that was some serious disappointment, because we knew that part was going to be sketchy, and we got up there and the ropes that we were counting on were gone, right? Just buried in the snow. And so I was sort of whacking at it. And Jeff Evans was there, too. He definitely did his part. And it was one of those things, like you kind of, everybody was willing to sacrifice their stomach to make the exhibition a success. And I think we both sort of figured, "This is going to be kind of our last gasp." And then, the team could come up and get it done.

Brad : And it was just one of those things like the energy of the teamwork was just so motivating. I mean, it was, it's hard to even fathom. It's hard to explain how much effort it takes to do things up there, like tying your shoes takes the wind out of you. And so, you don't want to waste any effort, you don't have to. And so, these fixed lines were buried under a crust of ice and so it was just like literally exhausting just to dig out a foot of it. And we had to dig out 50 to 75 feet of it in this space. But we thought for sure it was going to be helpful.

Brad : So, I was like, "All right. This is it. We're going to exhaust ourselves, but it will be worth it in the end." Because everybody's pretty safety conscious and focused on making it to summit day, which you're on this ridge. And it's like 5000 ft. one way or 3000 ft. the other way. And we just knew, it was a critical part of the climb to make it as safe as possible. So, yeah, it was exhausting, but it was worked out.

Erik : Yeah, just nothing like pulling ropes out of snow crust at 28,000 ft., so that act and a thousand others from all of you, was the reason I reached the top, so I don't forget that.

Brad : If I could just tag on to that and I don't know if Eric Alexander is out anywhere, but he put it really well early on. And it may have been even before the expedition, but he talked about how, "Erik, I don't know if I'm going to make it there with you, but I know I can help you summit." And so, it was sort of that like teamwork effort thing. It was just huge.

Erik : Yeah, thanks. And then P.V., you got sick. You had been working like crazy. The rest of us would go into our tents and sleep and you'd be organizing and doing radio calls and handling logistics and running around. And that just was so much pressure and I think it wore you down. And you had a bout of, a relapse of malaria. And P.V. when I think about like good leadership, even though you weren't there physically, you were there in spirit. And you were the reason why we got to the top because I remember you barking things out on the radio the whole time.

Erik : For instance, one example was that Jeff Evans, his oxygen regulator was filled up with some ice and which happens from the moisture of your breath. And you said, "Hey, so and so has the other oxygen regulator, make sure he gets it." And you were the one who knew that.

Pasquale : Yeah.

Erik : And Kami as well, so you guys were leading even flat on your back. And that's textbook leadership.

Pasquale : Well, there's another thing, too, people don't realize. There's things we talk about on Everest, and one of them is how to plan for a failure because you could get a lot of failures in the big mountains. And people don't realize that we had actually stash oxygen tents and everything at the balcony in Camp 5, in case an emergency. Remember, Brad? That we knew what happened. We were together on Everest in '95 and '96 when that disaster happened. And most of it happened at the balcony, so we went ahead and positioned stuff there. There was an emergency there. So, we had thought ahead of a lot of these things. It wasn't, so.

Erik : So, Kevin, you weren't on the summit, but we were on the balcony and it was bad weather. There was lightning, I remember.

Erik : Brad said it looked like a pyrotechnic show. Lightning floating all around us, clouds. And we were very much considering turning around. And I think you kind of saved the day, buddy. What happened at that moment from your experience?

Erik : Yeah, it was a service that I think Michael Brown connected us with, maybe or P.V. And the weather reports weren't that great back then. They weren't really solid. They were a little bit murky.

Pasquale : I think, Michael, we were using the Norwegian service, remember?

Erik : Well, that was awesome, Kevin. Because I remember Chris Morris looking up to see what the weather was doing after you said that. And he said, "I can see a star shining through the clouds." And then, I don't know if this is urban legend or whether this was real. But apparently, Sherman Bull, Brad's dad then said, "Well, if you want good weather go to Central Park in June." And we carried on.

Pasquale : He did say that.

Erik : He did say that. Okay, so not [crosstalk 00:36:44].

Brad : That sounds like Sherman.

Pasquale : He did say it to me, yeah. He said that for sure. I was right there. He said it right to me and then you went right by me because I was kind of standing there on the radio. And then he said, "You guys want some good weather? Go to Central Park in June, and I'm out of here." And he was on his way up the mountain.

Erik : And then we all followed.

Pasquale : [crosstalk 00:36:59]. We never caught up with him, though. He might have made it to the summit well ahead of us.

Erik : No, he was on fire, that I was sure. Luis, so you and I were pretty much hand-in-hand. Not that I was actually holding your hand, but we were pretty much arm and arm getting to the summit. Do you remember that?

Luis : Why not just admitted here to the to the general public, Erik? But no, that's... we were probably within two and three at the top. Obviously, we were there as a team, but also representative of what you believe was possible. So, I thought it only fitting to get out of the way and let you touch the top first, literally. And you were pretty insistent that that's not the way this was going to happen. And you want it to go up side by side. So, you held on to the rope and I held on to you. And we just kind of huffed and puffed and slowly stumbled out. I think I started crying first. I don't know then if you followed after me and by the time we got to the top, we could see the rest of the gang coming up behind us and then that was it.

Erik : It was a powerful experience. I remember the sound of space of sound vibrations moving out through space. It's just infinite up there. There's nothing for those sound vibrations to bounce off of, so it just moved through space. I was standing in front of my tent a lot of nights just kind of envisioning us. That idea of just envisioning myself on the summit, feeling the snow under my feet. And the hugs from you guys and tears and flags blowing. And I had been on that summit like 100 times before we actually stood there together. And that was the most people from one team to reach the summit of Everest in a single day, so that was awesome.

Erik : And P.V., I remember us getting down. There's so much more to cover, but we're running out of time. I remember getting down to the Icefall the last time. And you have legs that are like rubber. You're just, you're like a rubber band that's been stretched too many times. Windburn on top of sunburn. I lost like 35 pounds. I was so psyched to get to the Icefall. And then you bring the team together. We celebrate. I remember we drank some, but we'll keep it PG-13, some Cokes at Basecamp. And I called Ellen and then I think it was soon after that that you pulled me aside.

Erik : And so, I remember thinking, "Okay, P.V., he wants me to sign his baseball cap or something." And you said, "Here, do me a favor," you said, "Don't make Everest the greatest thing you ever do." And it brings tears to my eyes because No Barriers came from that. This movement came from that statement. So, you nailed it, buddy. And it was the worst motivational advice, the worst timing in the history of motivational advice, but it was great advice. And what do you mean by that? What were you telling me?

Pasquale : Well, Erik, what I've seen a lot is, and Brad you know this, we talk. You get a lot of guys that they'll do one thing. They are a lot of guys on the speaking circuit and they say, "Yeah, I climbed a mountain 25 years ago, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life talking about it." People do one thing, and then they go off. And they don't do anything else with their life. And I just felt that it was a really impactive event. We got a lot of press. You got a lot of press, Erik, with the NFB and everything. And I almost, I thought it would have been doing a disservice to everything you had done if that was the last thing you had done, and you spent the rest of your life just talking about summitting Mount Everest.

Pasquale : And in a lot of ways, by doing one of the great physical feats really in history, and by moving ahead and doing other of the great physical feats in history, like kayaking the Grand Canyon and everything that it only adds to Everest, it doesn't detract from it. And that there's so much more ahead of it. And I just, that's why I want to tell you. Don't make this, don't disappear and go on the talk circuit. Make this the beginning of your journey, not the end of your journey.

Ed : And P.V., what you said to Erik has been picked up and embraced by every single person on the climb.

Erik : Yeah, I mean, for me, P.V. that led to with Dave Shurna and with Mark Wellman and Hugh Herr starting No Barriers, this movement, that we're growing every day to help people break through barriers. And I know that in return, you guys lived that message, too. I'll start with you, P.V. You went out and you rafted the entire Blue Nile River thousands of miles like almost a year. That was another Everest for you. You haven't stopped and so, it's really impressive to see what you've done with your life. And Kami after the climb, he came to the US and he was the first Sherpa to meet the President of the United States in the White House. Luis, you went back to summit Everest, what, eight times?

Luis : No, close, but Michael and I got into friendly competition to see who would stop first.

Erik : You've guided the mountain a bunch of times. Tell us how many.

Luis : Summited six times. I was on the mountain seven times including our trip.

Erik : Yeah, so you went back and [crosstalk 00:42:32] the mountains. And you also worked for the governor. And you were responsible along with your team of bringing the OR Show to Denver, so like millions of dollars to Colorado. So, as a Colorado, thank you there, buddy. And then Kevin Cherilla, you went back to Everest and summited six years later on the north side. And you have done all kinds of projects through your K2 Foundation to bring blind people, I think you got like eight or 10 blind people through the summit of Kilimanjaro? I think I have my facts a little bit off, right?

Erik : I appreciate that. And Brad, you had a passel full of kids? Four kids and are happily married. And you are an architect and you help No Barriers with our plans for our beautiful camp up above Fort Collins, where we bring veterans, injured veterans and youth, so you've been an incredible part of this legacy. Thank you for everything, for the last 20 years.

Erik : And then Michael Brown, you have gone out to make a ton of amazing films and we've stayed very close. And you made a beautiful film about our Grand Canyon trip called the Weight of Water, which won the Banff Mountain Film Festival. And I know that was kind of a huge coup d'etat for you and your career.

Erik : And so, I want to end there and just say hey, what we did together 20 years ago was amazing, but P.V. your advice was the best advice I've ever had in my life. And I'm so proud of all of you for going out and continuing to not make Everest the greatest thing you've ever done. You guys are all crushing it. And we'll hope for 20 more years of health and happiness and No Barriers. Breaking through all kinds of barriers that exists in the world. And thank you to the No Barriers team as well. Thank you everyone. Totally awesome. I love you guys. We would like to thank our generous sponsors that make our No Barriers podcast possible. Wells Fargo, Prudential, CoBank, Arrow Electronics and Winnebago. Thank you so much for your support. It means everything to us. The production team behind this podcast includes Senior Producer Pauline Shaffer, sound design, editing and mixing by Tyler Cotman and marketing support by Heather Zoccali, Stevie Dinardo, Erika Huey, and Alex Shaffer. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our Intros on "Guidance." And thanks to all of you for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it and give us a review. Show Notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.


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