Ten days after his return from trekking in the Himalayas, Trevor Johnson is hard-pressed to find words to describe the experience.
“Amazing” comes to mind, as does “awe-inspiring.”
But try to paint how it feels to stand at a point 14,000 feet up Mount Everest – the world’s highest mountain – looking up a further 15,000 feet to its peak, to someone who’s never been there…?
“I kind of had a visual of what it would be like, but it was even more impressive than I could ever imagine,” Johnson said.
“You can’t really explain that to anybody who’s only been in Canada or played on our local coastal mountains.”
Johnson, a White Rock father and Richmond fire chief, was among 19 people to travel with Summits of Hope to Nepal to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital.
Travelling along established trade routes, past remote villages – and encountering more than 1,000 yaks – everyone reached the central goal: Everest base camp, 17,500 feet.
It was at that point that some members of the group ran into trouble. One climber developed high-altitude cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) and “had to be flown out in a helicopter immediately.” Two women who had been “kind of struggling” left at the same time, Johnson said.
Eleven of the 19, however – including Johnson and longtime friend Peter Hunter – continued to the nearby Kala Patar summit, an altitude of 18,200 feet. It is known to offer the best view of Everest from base camp to peak, as well as a 360-degree panorama of several other mountain peaks, including Mount Lhotse.
(The group was not targeting Everest’s summit, a goal Johnson described as “on another level to what I did” – one that only one in four who try survive. Incorrect information appeared in the Nov. 4 Peace Arch News.)
With the Kala Patar notch in their belt, Johnson and Hunter split from the group the following day to head with a guide for even greater heights – the summit of Island Peak.
On the final day of that adventure – after Johnson recovered from nausea that he initially worried would mean cutting the trek short – the pair climbed and hiked a total of 17 hours.
Waking at 1 a.m., they reached their goal – an altitude of 20,300 feet – at 10:30 a.m.
“It was actually more difficult than both of us had expected,” Johnson said. “Probably due to the illness and lack of sleep, it took just about everything we had to make it up there.”
In a brief video marking the occasion, the exertion is evident in both mens’ voices.
“We made it, man, top of the world,” Johnson says, panning the camera to capture the stunning 360-degree view.
The reward was “absolutely” worth all of the challenges, Johnson told PAN.
“We had a perfect day. It was blue sky as far as the eye could see, and we were sitting on the summit right next to Everest.
“It was pretty special.”
The Everest base-camp climb was Johnson’s second trek with Summits of Hope. The first, to Mount Kilimanjaro in 2007, was inspired by the care received at BCCH by Hunter’s infant daughter, Madison, who spent the first two months of her life there after she was born premature.
Johnson estimates he raised “around $10,000” this time around, funds that will benefit the hospital’s burn unit. The grand total from the Summits of Hope group is figured at around $200,000.
Tackling Everest had been on Johnson’s to-do list for more than two decades.
And while reaching the Island Peak summit put him past his personal altitude goal of 20,000 feet, it did anything but diminish his drive for new heights – quite the opposite, in fact.
“It just makes me want to go higher,” he said, noting Mongolia has been mentioned as a potential Summits of Hope destination next year.
He encouraged others interested in reaching such heights to consider Summits of Hope as a way of fulfilling their dreams while helping a cause along the way.
“They welcome anybody and everybody that has a passion for climbing,” he said.
Anyone interested in donating to Johnson’s efforts can still do so through to the end of December, at summitsofhope.com