Seven Summits

The Mountains are Calling…

The mountains are calling, and I must go. —John Muir

What is it that makes someone crave climbing hard, cold, dangerous mountains? Is it the challenge? The view? The bragging rights?

I never knew I loved mountains so much until I was well into my 40s and took up rock climbing on a whim. And that was in a gym. When I tried it outside, on New Hampshire’s Cathedral Ledge, a 500-foot sheer drop, I was hooked forever. A combination of fear, exhilaration, adrenaline, relief, and a huge sense of accomplishment flooded me. I knew very well there was a chemical aspect of this as endorphins coursed through my blood, making me feel drunkenly happy. Welcome to my new addiction.

I also knew that the intense concentration I had just experienced for four straight hours made me completely forget the world, any worries, the future, the past. Everything was reduced to, “Find that next nub to put your toe on and hang on for your life.” It was remarkably clarifying, much like skydiving, or even playing a complex piano piece. Such intense focus actually relaxes the brain when you finish the jump or performance. It’s like meditation.

And then, there’s just something inexplicable to me about rocks. I love them. I love the sight of them, color, feel. When I see a pretty rock at my feet, I pick it up to examine it. When I drive down the highway, I scan the dynamited masses on either side and imagine trying to scale them. When I am in Utah, my rock mecca, I just gape at the surreal world of red, striated rocks that reveal the history of the earth, the mesas, the hoodoos. When I get close to rocks, I feel something; energy? I know some people swear by the healing power of certain rocks. I don’t know about that, but I do know being near them makes me feel connected to earth, to life, to the universe.

My view of Kilimanjaro August 2016

Climbing is less about the view, and more about the journey, overcoming fears, pushing yourself to extreme limits, wringing out every ounce of strength (and oxygen) in you to see how much you can handle. It’s a psychological test set among the most beautiful places on earth.

Last summer I couldn’t wait to jump out of bed once or twice a week at 4:30 am, grab my gear, and head north to New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington for a 7-hour strenuous hike. You finish utterly wiped out, starving, grimy, sweaty, and deliriously happy. That was in preparation for Mt. Kilimanjaro last August.

Now I am training again—for Everest base came, in two and a half months.

Chris Bombardier

I’ll be following in the footsteps of mountaineer Chris Bombardier, person with hemophilia B, friend, and fellow board member of Save One Life. Chris also loves mountains, and he is lucky enough to live in Denver, and grew up among rocks. Chris is attempting to complete the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. He’s completed five to date (though has “temporarily” been denied access to Mt. Vinson in Antarctica due to his hemophilia). Well, when he was denied, he thought, “I’ll show them! I’ll just climb Everest first!” So Chris will be attempting to summit Everest in early May!

If successful, Chris will become the first person with hemophilia in history to reach all Seven Summits.

He’s done five of them: Kilimanjaro (Africa), Aconcagua (South America), Denali (North America), Elbrus (Europe), and Cartstenz Pyramid (Australia). Now, just Everest in Nepal and Vinson in Antarctica remain.

You may know Chris, a rising star in the hemophilia community. I first met Chris in 2011 at NACCHO, when he was about to climb Kilimanjaro with his uncle, and I was about to climb it a few months after him as a fundraiser for Save One Life. He shared his dream and I heartily approved and told him I would help if at all possible. I’ve followed each of his summits; we helped fund one of them. When no funding seemed apparent and he would get downcast, I told him to stay positive, it will happen; nothing will stop someone with such big and noble dreams. And sure enough, the funding for Everest was daunting, for anyone but especially a young man from Denver. But luckily, I’m not the only one who believes in Chris! Octapharma, a privately owned Swiss company that manufactures blood clotting medicine, funded Chris’s fees and travel entirely!

Best of all, this historical event will be captured on film and made into a documentary by Patrick James Lynch, another rising star in hemophilia, and Believe Ltd.

Chris on Aconcagua, with picture
of Brian, a suffering child with hemophilia,
Chris’s motivation

And there is a higher goal, beyond challenging ourselves and setting records in the hemophilia community. Chris wants above all to highlight the gaping disparity in treatment between the developed and developing countries. And as you know, this has been a passion of mine for the past 20 years. I’m thrilled that Chris cares as much as I do about changing the lives of 300,000 people worldwide with no access to factor. In fact, Chris is betting his life on it: a climb up Everest is difficult and dangerous. Chris is taking these risks because his reward is that the spotlight will be put on those who suffer even more.

Save One Life has been working in Nepal for years and we sponsor over 80 people there with hemophilia. We helped provide funding to rebuild homes post-earthquake, and LA Kelley Communications has helped pay for surgeries. It’s a country dear to us all.

So why do we climb? To feel rare emotions—euphoria, extreme exhaustion, deep joy, eternal gratitude. To overcome out fears; to push ourselves to the limits; to do something with lasting impact—a historical climb, a movie about hemophilia; and hopefully to change the lives of our fellow community members who need our help.

And me? I’m going to base camp at 17,600 feet after a nine day hike through stunning vistas (with yaks!), spending two days with Chris, then descending, leaving him to prepare for the climb about a month afterwards. I’ll have some stories to tell, and prayers to leave for my friend, one of the bravest guys I know.

Follow Chris’s preparation and climb on his Facebook blog Adventures of a Hemophiliac.      

  

March’s Child

I remember the Boston Globe column called “Sunday’s Child,” which profiled a beautiful child every Sunday in the Boston area in need of a foster home, in the hopes it would end in adoption. Let’s call this week’s blog post “March’s Child.” We have children with hemophilia in need of sponsorship!

It’s March, Hemophilia Awareness Month, and yet there are children in developing countries who lie at the fringe of our community, unaware that it’s “their” month, poor, suffering, waiting for help. We do our best to provide factor to these children through Project SHARE. But did you know you can sponsor one of these children through our sponsorship program Save One Life?

Helping us promote our cause is the amazing Chris Bombardier, who just spent 3 weeks in the wilderness, summiting Carstenz Pyramid in Indonesia. Yup, he flew all the way there, and suffered up that enormous mountain (the highest in Oceana–a stand-in for continent Australia) and #5 on his Seven Summits Quest) to raise awareness for hemophilia in March and for Save One Life in particular. How is that for sacrifice and dedication?

Most of us don’t need to go to such an extreme, though Chris so kindly asked me to accompany him (I would have if I didn’t have so much hemophilia-related work going on right now). We can just sponsor a child at only $22 a month. We are trying to get a mere 31 children sponsored in March, one for each day. We’ve almost reached our goal! Just FIVE more! We even have their photos below. Please consider helping us reach our goals to help give them a better life! It’s Hemophilia Awareness Month: Thanks to those who have pledged sponsorship! We hope more blog readers will rally to help these deserving children; what better month to make a pledge than March?

You can read more about Chris’s amazing climb here!

Laurie Kelley, founder,
Save One Life



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Great Book I Just Read
Eiger Dreams: Ventures of Men and Mountains by Jon Krakauer

From the mountain-climbing author of Into Thin Air comes nine gripping and informative stories about historic mountain climbs and the intriguing people who climb them. He covers K2, Denali, Everest and the Nordwand (Eiger) interspersing modern day adventurists and alpinists with history of climbing for each mountain. Krakaeur is a great storyteller: no nonsense but infusing his stories with awe, respect and love of the mountains. He also includes his own struggles with each mountain while portraying others’ climbs. Four/five stars.

Summiting to Save Lives!

Chris climbing Denali (Mt. McKinley)
March is Hemophilia Awareness month! But you already knew that.
What you might not know is that a brave young Denver man with hemophilia is making 
history!!
Chris Bombardier (don’t you just love that name? It’s like Jonny Quest or Tom Cruise—it simply implies adventure) is doing something no one with hemophilia has ever done before: summiting Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia. 
Why this mountain? After all, the man lives in Denver, a mile-high city. (Yes, he has that to his advantage; lots of extra red blood cells to help with altitude). Carstensz Pyramid will be Chris’s 5th mountain in his goal is to become the first person with hemophilia to climb the highest peak on each continent, aka The Seven Summits.
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. Mt. Elbrus in Russia. Mt. Aconcagua in South America, and Mt. McKinley in the US: been there, done that for Chris. 

This will be  his most technical climb yet–that means hard!  Carstensz Pyramid is the highest mountain in Oceania standing at 16,024 feet above sea level. The mountain is in a remote area of Papua, Indonesia and the climb will involve specialized skills such as rock climbing, rappelling, and a tyrolean traverse. Chris will end the climb with a 4-5 day trek through an isolated region of the Papua jungle.

Chris infusing on a mountain top!

And he asked me to come with him, mentioning there were a lot of leeches and snakes in those there “isolated regions.” I wanted to go, believe me. One day I will go with him (though we are now narrowed down to Antarctica and Mt. Everest. I have to remind him I am twice his age), if only to base camp.

Chris left Friday, March 6 and has just landed in Bali. He is psyched and raring to go! 

You can follow him for the next three weeks on his blog: AdventuresOfAHemophiliac.com

Quick background: The Seven Summits Quest began when Chris traveled to Kenya on a work-related trip. While there, he witnessed the difficulties of those living with hemophilia in less developed regions of the world and decided he wanted to do anything he could to help. Chris declares, “Of course I look forward to standing on the summits of these incredible mountains and feeling the accomplishment of doing it with hemophilia. I want to show young people with hemophilia what’s possible. Our world is an amazing place, and I don’t want people with hemophilia to think they have to live in a bubble. I want them to get out and experience life to the fullest!” But, more importantly, Chris is committed to spreading the word about hemophilia and raising people’s awareness of the huge disparity in care that exists in the world.

And I add proudly that Chris is a board member of Save One Life, the nonprofit I founded in 2001 to help support the world’s poor with hemophilia. We have about 1,400 children and young adults 

enrolled, who receive direct funding, scholarships, camp funding and microenterprise grants!

Deepak Das of India, whose leg was amputated
last year due to an untreated bleed

And in March, Chris is going to dedicate each day to a child in need. Our goal is to get 35 more sponsored. They are waiting on our website: http://www.saveonelife.net
Chris is taking risks at great expense to highlight the need of those in impoverished countries, where factor is limited or nonexistent. Please help support his climb by sponsoring a child today!
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/03/prweb12565783.htm

Summit 4: Heart of a Lion

I have to just brag about this kid as if he’s my own (with apologies to Cathy Bombardier, his wonderful true mom): Chris Bombardier is just amazing. With so much humility and a soft-spoken demeanor, he has the heart of a lion! He just bagged his fourth summit, in his attempt to be the first person with hemophilia to conquer the Seven Summits—the highest summits on each continent.

It was a tough, grueling climb, the hardest one he has done to date, he confided, and that’s saying a lot. I did Kilimanjaro in 2011, and the last 7 hours of the summit reminded me a lot of childbirth without anesthesia, which I have done twice. Not fun. But the outcome was worth it!

Three more to go, the last being the breathtaking Mt. Everest. I am working out religiously so I can accompany him on a climb. How cool would that be? I’m old enough to be his mother. And proud enough to be his mother! Congratulations, Chris!

Chris’ climbs benefit Save One Life, the nonprofit I founded to help children with hemophilia in developing countries. So he not only climbs for personal challenge, but to advance hemophilia care for those who have none. Heart of a Lion!

Please read this excerpt from his blog, and visit “Adventures of a Hemophiliac” to read the rest of the story, and about his upcoming climbs! (Thanks SO much to ASD Healthcare, Reliance Factor of America and BDI Pharma for supporting Chris’s climb!) Visit www.SaveOneLife.net to learn more.

Denali/Mt. McKinley Part 2: Lower Glacier to 14,000ft

Chris Bombardier's picture
Submitted by Chris Bombardier on Thu, 2014-07-31 09:09

This year, Denali lived up to the hype of brutal weather.   Summit rates plummeted from the typical 50% to the low 30% when we   arrived in Talkeetna, and having a HUGE snow day so early into the trip   made us all a bit concerned. After our snowshoe fun we discussed our   plan of action. Our amazing guide Melis decided we needed to wait for   the snow to settle before heading up the mountain. Not only would this   lessen the danger of avalanches, but also make travel over the feet of   new snow easier. Another group had different plans and wanted to move as   soon as the snow stopped and the clouds cleared. We saw them struggle   past our camp and begin the ascent of Ski Hill. Hours later they were   still in sight. It took them 6 hours to reach a point that only took us 2   hours a few days before. I was so glad our guide made the decision to   leave bright and early the next morning.


We woke up at 3 A.M. the following day and the weather looked great. We packed up camp, organized all our gear, and headed out. Luckily, the team that left the night before broke trail up Ski Hill and we moved quite easily. We found the other group camped not far from where we last saw them. They must’ve been exhausted and had to camp there. Another AMS team left a few hours before us so the trail was also broken most of the way. About 3/4 of the way to 11,000 camp we passed the other AMS team descending back to Camp 1. They cached their gear and were heading back for the night. From there on out it looked like we would be breaking trail. Melis lead to the cache and when we arrived we decided to pick up ALL of our gear and head up the final hill. I was feeling good until this point. Then things changed quickly.



From the cache we only had a few hundred feet of untracked snow to make it to the rest of the trail. These few hundred feet were the worst of the entire trip. I was second on the rope team following our guide Mike. He charged into the fresh snow and was moving quickly. I was trying to step opposite of him so that the snow would be packed down evenly for the others. It was brutal! We were sinking knee deep in snow on snowshoes! I think I would’ve been able to handle it but the pace was too fast for me. Instead of asking Mike to slow down I tried to tough it out. I failed. By the time I said something my legs were dead and we still had the entire hill left. The next 2 hours were brutal. I asked for more breaks and my legs finally came back. We made it to camp and I hoped that was the worst day I would have on the mountain. I knew from then on I would be more vocal about how I was feeling. There is no shame in asking for a break or slowing down the pace a bit.



We had a much needed rest day after our move to 11,000ft camp, at least much needed for me. It was an infusion day and I really wanted to do it outside with the amazing views around. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and I was restricted to my tent. The infusion went well and I was ready to roll for our next trip up the mountain. If you want to see the video of my tent infusion check out my Facebook page.


With my body restored I was ready to tackle our next goal, caching gear near Windy Corner on the trail towards 14,000ft camp. We ditched the sleds for this part of the climb which was amazing! I would much rather have a heavier backpack than pull a sled. At this point of the trip we really started climbing the mountain and weren’t just making the approach. Distances between the camps weren’t as great but the elevation gain was pretty much the same. Our first obstacle was Motorcycle Hill. This is where I really felt like I was climbing a mountain. The terrain started getting steep and strangely I started to feel stronger. We knocked out Motorcycle Hill quite nicely and turned up Squirrel Hill. As we were climbing Squirrel Hill our guide informed us of the massive cliff just out of site. That definitely heightened my senses and made me focus even more on every step. A massive avalanche slid over a cliff on the other side of the valley. I have never been so close to a slide and you could really feel the power of it. It was a great reminder that the mountain is always in control.

The weather kept improving throughout the day and when we cached we had an amazing view. It’s always an amazing feeling being on a mountain above the clouds. After we buried our cache we headed down. As we descended Squirrel and Motorcycle Hill I was in the lead of our group. The view was absolutely breathtaking and up to that point, it was my favorite day on a mountain. I felt strong again and confident that this was going to be a great trip. That night we got word that another storm may roll in. We built up wind walls around our tents and prepared to be there for awhile.

The wind picked up overnight and some snow fell but it wasn’t as bad as we thought, but still not great to move in. Melis thought we were going to be stuck for the day until the clouds suddenly started to break. Our guide made a few satellite phone calls to make sure this break would last and decided we needed to pack up and go for it. We took down the tents in the late morning and were on our way to 14,000ft camp just after noon. The trail was harder due to the new snow but we still made great progress. As we reached the top of Squirrel Hill the wind started to pick up and we knew we needed to get around Windy Corner as quickly as possible. Lets just say I get why they call it Windy Corner. We didn’t pick up the rest of our cache this time but we did stop and grab our helmets off the top as we passed the corner. The wind was howling. I grabbed my helmet, continued walking, and then waited for my teammate behind me to put his helmet on. It seemed like it was taking forever. As I glanced back to see what was going on, a freezing gust of wind and blowing snow slammed against my face. I could barely make out my teammate and just turned my back to the wind. The next 10-15 minutes of climbing around Windy Corner were brutal. Then as we crossed onto the 14,000ft side of the corner, the mountain turned peaceful. It was an amazing transformation. We continued on to camp which was still a few hours away. We pulled in around midnight, set up camp, cooked some food, and crashed hard. Another tough, tough day on the mountain. We were now in a fantastic position to get up the mountain and I really felt great at this point.

Eye on the Summit!

This is a very special week in Hemophilia Adventure
History! On Tuesday, Chris Bombardier, a 27-year-old Colorado man with severe
factor IX deficiency, sets out to climb Aconcagua, a 22, 847 foot mountain
located in northern Argentina, near the border of Chile. It is the highest
mountain in the Americas, and is part of Chris’s unprecedented Seven Summits
climb. Unprecedented because no one with hemophilia has bagged all seven
summits—the highest mountains on each of seven continents.
Why is Chris doing this? How dangerous is it?


“Obviously I hope to summit,” the Denver native told me in a recent telephone
interview. “I also hope to raise greater awareness of hemophilia globally. Most
people in the States don’t even know about hemophilia; think about how little
is known worldwide. I think having someone with hemophilia pushing the limits
is a cool story in itself, but I hope it raises awareness of the discrepancy in
treatment.”

Chris knows something about that. He sits on the board
of my nonprofit, Save One Life, which is dedicated to assisting individuals in
poverty with hemophilia in developing countries. He also has helped establish a blood testing lab in Eldoret, Kenya.
“Physically, I feel good, strong,” says Chris, an avid
mountaineer and adventurer. Chris already has knocked off one summit: Kilimanjaro
in Tanzania, when he climbed in April 2011, becoming the first American with
hemophilia to summit it. He is using a long lasting factor in experimental
studies currently, which, he says, is working well. He plans to infuse on the
mountain as needed.
Chris will be climbing the
Ameghino/Upper Guanacos route with a traverse and decent down the normal route.
He’ll be climbing with two guides and eight other climbers. Chris’s climb is
being funded by LA Kelley Communications.
“We
start the climb on Tuesday, January 29th with a hopeful summit day around February
7th or 8th, says Chris. “I posted a thorough itinerary of the climb on
my new website and blog.” Chris also hopes that he inspires people to donate to
Save One Life; while his climbing costs are covered, every penny he raises goes
to helping run Save One Life, which serves over 1,000 people with hemophilia
who live on about $1 a day.
While in
Argentina, Chris also hopes to meet the Hemophilia Foundation of Argentina, one
of the world’s first hemophilia nonprofits and one of the best run. Carlos
Safadi, a lawyer with hemophilia who sits on its board, also serves on the
executive committee of the World Federation of Hemophilia. Carlos writes, “It will be my pleasure to welcome
Chris to the Foundation.”
Check
out www.adventuresofahemophiliac.com  to read more about Chris and his
momentous climb! And show your support by making a donation in any amount to
Save One Life!  www.saveonelife.net
 
Great Book I Just Read
Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the
Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day
[Kindle]
The worst accident in the
history of climbing K2, the second highest mountain in the world but known as
the most treacherous, happened on August 1, 2008, when 11 mountaineers from
international expeditions died. What sets this true story apart from other
mountain climbing stories is that it is told primarily from the sherpas’
point-of-view. The authors get inside the mind-sets of the sherpas who brought
the many clients up the mountain that day; their lives from childhood are
replayed, revealing their sterling character, and how most escaped dire poverty
to become rock-stars of the climbing world. But the “goddess” of the mountain
had other plans for the unlucky climbers: reaching the summit too late in the
day, the return became a race against the dark, the cold when disaster struck.
An avalanche buries the lead ropes, scattering the climbers, leaving some suspended
upside-down all night long, others to walk over the edge, and still others to abandon
their fellow climbers. It’s a tragic tale, masterfully told with great
compassion and in-depth focus on each individual. Most fascinating to me were
the many references to the Nepalese sherpas’ faith in the goddess of the mountain,
and the Pakistani guides’ Islamic faith and how their faiths led them to assist
the many climbers and other guides in trouble, putting their own lives at
terrible risk.  This story of
heroism and yes, hubris, was a page-turner, and I finished it in two nights.
Four/five stars. 
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