NEPAL – Craig Barlow, son-in-law of Neil and Christel Lakata of Fallbrook, climbed Mt. Everest earlier this year.
Barlow, who is 42 and lives in Brea, flew from Los Angeles to Kathmandu, where his group from I.M.G. (International Mountain Guides) and group leader Greg met on March 27. Together, they flew to Lukla and started trekking over the lower mountain ranges of Nepal.
The group stayed overnight in teahouses in small villages along the way and arrived on the 12th day at Everest Base Camp (EBC), elevation 17,300 feet. The EBC provided shower tents and a dining tent where the climbers were provided with food cooked by the Sherpas.
The group spent several days getting used to their surroundings and learning how to use ropes as well as practicing various climbing techniques for their journey ahead. Barlow’s birthday was April 20 and the Sherpas presented him with a cake and – as a special gift – a can of beer.
The serious hiking then began. The climbers explored and tested their skills while reaching an elevation up to 20,000 feet. Barlow woke up one morning feeling dizzy, head aching and having no appetite. While he was able to keep up with the rest of the group, Barlow’s condition turned into a cold, which then turned into an upper respiratory infection. The EBC doctor assured him that he would be able to recover, and he did.
The group slowly made their way up to 24,000 feet, sleeping in tents in designated areas (camps). After those climbs to acclimate and get acquainted with the territory, the group returned to the base camp and waited for the OK to start the ascent to the summit.
Each hiker was accompanied by a Sherpa, who carried some of the equipment. However, there was plenty of other gear to carry like heavy down suits, food to get through several days, an oxygen mask and regulator.
Winds up to 70 mph and harsh snow conditions interrupted the group’s climb, forcing them to spend several nights in their cold tents. At one point, they had to return to a lower elevation because of avalanche concerns.
After two days of rest, Barlow woke up with a cough and pressure in his chest – just as he had earlier – and was terrified that he might be getting sick again. Since there was no time to rest and recover, he had to push forward or the trip was over.
On May 21 at 26,000 feet altitude, the group started its second attempt. The climb was very steep and treacherous, and carrying heavy equipment made it twice as difficult. At one point they passed three recently deceased climbers – which everyone had heard about in the news. It was a sobering reminder to be vigilant to high altitude sickness as it can come on very quickly.
On May 23, after hours of difficult climbing and additional oxygen, Barlow used every bit of his energy and determination to finally reach the top of the world at 29,035 feet. Only half of his group of 16 made it to the summit; there were no serious injuries, they simply ran out of energy.
His mother-in-law said, “Needless to say, we are all extremely proud and in awe of his accomplishment. He was gone nine weeks; he had trained hard for a long time and physically he was prepared but the hardest part, in his own words, was being away from friends, family and staying focused.”