Battling weather and fatigue, man hikes to Mount Everest base camp – and gives kisses along the way
Updated: Apr 5
Ryan Young isn’t timid when it comes to adventure.
The 37-year-old Stephenville businessman is known for jumping out of airplanes. In fact, he has racked up more than 900 skydiving jumps in the past 10 years.
“Some friends talked me into it,” he said of his first jump from an airplane. “They were doing it for a birthday party. As soon as I landed I thought it was dumb, but I did it again the following weekend and that’s when I caught the bug - and I haven’t stopped.”
Young recently took a break from running his business – Southern Screen and Window – and set off on a new adventure – hiking to the base camp of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.
Before heading to Nepal with six others, Young trained for nine weeks – hiking, climbing, watching his diet and preparing his body for the extreme cold and altitude.
“I don’t consider myself to be a thrill-seeker,” Young said. “I just want to live. I don’t think I got out of the house enough in my 20s. I needed to get outside more.”
THE JOURNEY TO NEPAL
On Feb. 26, Young boarded a plane in Houston and flew to Dubai for the first leg of his journey. After a six-hour layover, he headed to Katmandu to begin his once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
“The weather was pretty good when we landed (in Katmandu),” he said. “The first thing they did was check us for fever – it was at the beginning stages of the coronavirus outbreak.”
Young said his first impression of the country was its friendliness.
“As soon as I got there I realized that I had left my wallet in the cab,” he said. “About 10 minutes later the cab driver came back with my wallet and everything in it. The people are great and super nice.”
The group spent three days in Katmandu before setting out for a nine-day hike to base camp – a journey that would take them 17,300 feet above sea level.
A COLD, MISERABLE PARADISE
Young was a novice compared to the experienced group of mountain climbers he was traveling with, but despite the fact that his first big climb was a big one, he kept up.
The group made the hike with assistance from a guide and three porters who helped carry their gear.
Day 2 of the hike was particularly difficult.
“We just kept climbing. I think we gained 4,000 feet that day,” he said. “The incline just never stopped, it never leveled off. It was miserable.”
At one point, Young took off his gear to sit down and rest, but was interrupted by a herd of Yak.
“I had to hurry and get back up because they will run you over,” he said.
The group battled fatigue, extreme cold, hunger and headaches. One woman in the group was forced back down the mountain because of respiratory issues. (She is fine now.)
“We had two acclimation days, but it was tough,” Young said.
Creature comforts were non-existent. The group stayed in small tea houses with no heat or electricity. They took cold showers and slept in sleeping bags on flimsy beds.
They drank hot tea and water warmed by the fire that was lit in the evenings and ate dal bhat – the national dish of Nepal made with rice and lentils.
But the view? Well, that was spectacular.
“It was cold and miserable. My hands and feet felt like they were frozen solid, and we stank,” he said with a laugh. “But it was absolutely beautiful. Being there makes you feel very small. I am so glad to have had that experience. I have no regrets.”
THE CANDY MAN
Before leaving the U.S., Young stocked up on Hershey’s kisses and passed them out to children he met along the way.
“The kids were giddy,” he said. “And they always accepted (the candy) with two hands. That’s the culture – and I learned that I was expected to give it to them with both hands.”
On one of the days in Tyangboche, the group spent time in a monastery.
“A group of Tibetan monks were there praying,” he said. “We sat there for about 45 minutes while they prayed. It was the only place where we forgot we were cold.”
HOME SWEET HOME
Young arrived home on March 11 – hungry, tired and aching for a hot shower.
The life-changing journey is something he won’t ever forget, but one he isn’t in a hurry to repeat.
“It was awesome,” he said. “But the next place I go will be warm and flat.”
All photos contributed by Ryan Young.