Mountaineers visit WSU

As part of Geography Awareness Week, Ogden mountaineers Will Carlton and Tom Burton visited Weber State University on Wednesday to tell their story about climbing Mount Everest earlier this year. The two are among the few in Utah who have reached the summit.

About 130 slides of pictures were shown of the events that took place during the hike. The two mountaineers found a cheaper deal for climbing Mount Everest and decided to take on the adventure.

Burton and Carlton started off staying in Kathmandu, Nepal. From there, they flew to Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world. They then started their hike to Everest base camp, which was a nine-day trip.

“We basically trekked from village to village,” Burton said.

Burton showed how the villagers would carry heavy equipment, including up to 24 gallons of water on their backs, while he didn’t usually carry half that much in his training.

After they reached base camp at an elevation of 17,600 feet above sea level, they had a complete view of Mount Everest. Carlton said they could hear the jet stream hitting the mountain and the cracking of the ice and snow as the wind hit it.

Burton and Carlton stayed at base camp for 50-60 days with plenty of food provided.

“I think I gained some weight,” Carlton said. “The important thing was for us to stay healthy, and luckily, none of us got sick.”

While at base camp, they trained by climbing small glaciers and hiking up certain parts to acclimatize their bodies. A helicopter would touch and go on top of the glacier if needed for equipment or medical runs. Carlton said there was a lot of trouble if they got hurt while hiking up high.

It snowed almost every night at the base camp, making it freezing every day and night.

“This was as much of an endurance race as climbing the peak,” Carlton said.

Burton said that, as they were hiking up to the second camp, the sun came up over the mountain, and he said it was a great view, providing more reason to finish the hike.

Avalanches had taken place while they were hiking and destroyed a lot of tents at Camp 2, but no one was hurt at the time. Other avalanches had destroyed their tents further up the mountain, but each time they weren’t around.

“It was one of the most dangerous years,” Carlton said.

After reaching Camp 4, Burton said, they were in the death zone. Everyone walked around with oxygen masks because of how low the air pressure was — about 30 percent of what it would be at sea level.

“This particular year, there was a two-day good weather window,” Burton said. “We had some problems with the crowds this year.”

Burton said they were slowed down quite a bit. He said that, just as they sat down to rest, the team leader said they should leave early to avoid the crowds, giving them less than two hours to rest. They decided to go.

Before reaching the summit, they had to climb the Hilary Step, which took longer than an hour because of the crowds. After the Hilary Step, they reached the summit.

Burton lost his oxygen at the top, but his team provided extra oxygen for him. On the climb down, Carlton hit his head, had frostbite and busted a few ribs, but he recovered quickly.

Burton and Carlton said they plan on hiking to other peaks, but none as high as Everest.

“There were feelings of gratitude to be a part of this experience,” Burton said. “If you have a dream, get out there and take that first step.”

Angie Betancourt, assistant director of the housing office at WSU, said she was impressed by the two mountaineers.

“I know what it’s like in movies, so it’s hard to take it all in,” Betancourt said.

Alan Betancourt said he thought it was amazing for them to have climbed that high, having read all of the books and seen the movies about it.

“It’s just incredible,” he said.