By now, most of my friends, family and followers know that I didn’t summit Mount Everest this year. It was a tough pill to swallow, but my journey isn’t over! I will make another summit attempt in 2019, and I’ll be doing some smaller summit climbs until next summer. Stay tuned for those details.
I know that failure is one of the greatest lessons in life. I’m an entrepreneur, and I’ve learned to embrace anything less than perfect as an opportunity to both move on and improve. What happened on the mountain was out of my control. But it won’t stop me! And – of course – I’m incredibly proud of everyone in my climbing group, all of whom summited in mid-May.
If you’ve read my prior posts, you know climbing Mount Everest requires a great deal of bodily preparation and acclimatization. We spent several weeks at Base Camp, and we moved up and down the mountain to become acclimatize prior to attempting to reach the summit. I spent a year following a ketogenic diet and training to help my body become more fat-adapted and thus better able to handle the harsh conditions and high altitude. But it didn’t go as planned.
Early in my journey, as we moved up through the valley, I began suffering some respiratory issues. However, I was fortunate that they cleared up by the time we were at Base Camp. Unfortunately, by the time we began some of our acclimatization climbs in late April, I’d developed another respiratory infection. Eventually, my allergies became a full-blown sinus infection. I’ve been told that once this happens, it’s very difficult to recover at Base Camp.
On May 8, things took a turn for the worse while I was on my way to Camp 3. We made the difficult decision to end my 2018 climb due to my health. My blood pressure was 150/100. My hematocrit was 56. I was dehydrated. I officially had high-altitude pulmonary edema, or HAPE. My Sherpa helped me down to Camp 1 to meet a helicopter. Technically, most helicopters can reasonably go as high as Camp 2 (21,000 feet), but the higher they go, the more difficult it is. Once I was in, the helicopter seemed to struggle to take off again. I’m glad it was there, but it was tough!
Heading back home
By May 10, my blood pressure was down to 110/80, my hematocrit was 52 and I was hydrated again. I was declared “fit to fly” and began my journey back to the United States May 11.
Why did it happen?
I can’t be 100 percent sure why it happened. But a recent visit to an ENT physician may have given me some insight.
My entire life, I thought I was “too tough” to go to the doctor. I ignored my chronic congestion. I brushed off an incident from middle school, during which a loose football helmet caused one side of my nose to partially collapse. My failure to take care of myself likely contributed to my HAPE on Mount Everest!
But on May 29, the ENT confirmed my severe allergies. I’m now getting full allergy testing, irrigating my nose twice per day, using nose spray, taking antibiotics for three weeks and likely having surgery in June to correct my deviated septum.
The nurse practitioner also told me that patients with noses like mine often report feeling like they have “three lungs” after surgery. Sounds like good fuel to me!