Native climbs Mt. Everest [UPDATED]Published 4:38am Monday, June 24, 2013 Updated 6:50am Monday, June 24, 2013
In his search for adventure, Micah Kershner found himself nearly 29,000 feet above sea-level — looking up at the famous snowy summit of Mount Everest.
Kershner, a 1996 graduate of Fergus Falls High School, had quit his job in the electronic payments industry to focus time on his bucket list and to get out of the busy business world. That brought him to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.
Kershner expected to gain experience climbing in the Himalayas. In turn, he was presented with the opportunity to join an expedition up the tallest mountain in the world. Despite having no climbing experience, he signed up.
“I wanted a challenge,” Kershner said. “Everest provides a rare opportunity in life where you don’t get phone reception, you don’t have any day-to-day distractions, you get a total reset from the real world.”
Veteran climbers did not expect Kershner to finish much of the climb or venture so far out of his comfort zone. He left with the group on April 12, making several acclimatization trips to allow their bodies to adjust to the altitude.
As he expected, the challenges were extreme.
“Everest will expose any underlying health issues, both physical and mental,” he said. “You end up tired of being on the mountain. It’s cold and the food leaves much to be desired.”
The climb requires a myriad of special gear for the elements. With each step, climbers face extreme wind and cold. The threat of altitude sickness was constant and the effects of high altitude on the body significant.
The 2013 climbing season was deadly on Everest’s north side, with four deaths and only 60 climbers. Two experienced climbers in their mid-30s died of apparent heart attacks while descending the mountain — one just feet from Kershner’s tent at the Advance Base Camp. The other climber, Namgyal Sherpa, a friend and guide on Kershner’s team, died returning from the summit while still in the “death zone” — the portion of the mountain more than 26,000 feet in elevation. Kershner and the other climbers had to step around his body as they continued their ascent.
“Namgyal’s death made clear what was at stake,” Kershner said. “If you make a mistake at high altitude, you’re dead.”
There are no helicopter rescues on the mountain’s north side. Climbers often die because they’re caught up in how much time and money they have committed and it clouds their judgment as they take unnecessary risks, Kershner said.
Kershner had problems of his own. He started coughing up blood and, after a four-day trip to a Tibetan hospital on the the flatbed of a truck littered with cigarette butts, broken glass and dirt, he returned to the lower altitude of base camp to recover.
After recovering, Kershner rejoined his team for the summit bid. He reached 28,000 feet — about 1,000 feet short of the summit — but turned back after having problems with his oxygen supply.
Exceeding expectations and returning healthy with all his fingers and toes made his first climbing expedition a success.
“I went looking for adventure. I found it,” he said. “I really just wanted to challenge myself, step away from my day-to-day and get completely outside my comfort zone.”
Along the way, Kershner made a group of international friends with whom he will continue to climb. They are set to climb Mont Blanc in France next month and plan to conquer the seven summits — the highest summits on each continent.
Even after the initial difficulty of telling his parents, Marion and Morrie, who reside in Fergus Falls, that he would make the climb, Kershner expects to be back on Everest next season, this time to ascend the mountain’s south face. The group plans to use the next expedition to raise money for charity.
“Everest is a big challenge for me and I will finish what I started,” Kershner said. “It’s a chance to get away and experience some real adventure. How much real adventure is really left in the world?”