I've hit my high point, the South Summit of Mount Everest - 28,750 feet above sea level - and I couldn't be more happy to wrap up my No Guts Know Glory Seven Summits Campaign in the company of an excellent team and in the knowledge that I gave everything I had to this quest. I want to first thank my sponsor ConvaTec for investing in my campaign and for seeing it through to the end. I am forever grateful.
This campaign, while using mountain climbing to show people living with intestinal disease and/or an ostomy that you can achieve your dreams, for me, was less about climbing mountains and more about moving them. Every day people in our communities are stigmatized by their diseases or their ostomies. So much misinformation exists about people living with an ostomy. I decided almost a decade ago to do something to change this, to educate people and make them aware that life with an intestinal disease is not a prison sentence and life with an ostomy can be full and vibrant. I knew this mission would take years, so instead of focusing on one mountain, I chose seven.
I'm lying in Everest camp four, exhausted, desperate to re-hydrate myself, even more desperate to sleep and I don't think there is a word that explains my desire to breath oxygen-rich air again. Overnight I climbed from just above 26,000 feet to 28,750 feet above sea level. I reached the South Summit of Everest. When I descend tomorrow morning to camp two, I will have spent over 80 hours above 26,000 feet, in the so-called Death Zone, just to summit the highest mountain on Earth. Despite all of this effort, I am still thinking about future effort.
The climbing part of my campaign is almost complete - I still have to get down off the mountain and home safely. But the awareness and education part of the campaign feels like it's just getting started. We can move the mountain of stigma surrounding ostomy and intestinal disease; we can educate people and make them aware; so that those of us who need to have surgery or have the misfortune of getting sick can live our lives without fear of judgment.
As I sat this morning at the South Summit with my guide John, talking about whether or not to continue, I reflected on my Everest journey to this point. I knew I had achieved what I'd set out to do on the mountain. I knew the time I'd spent above 26,000 feet had exhausted me. I knew that if I continued I'd be putting my life and the lives of those climbing with me at risk. I thought of my daughters, my partner, my parents, my friends and my family; I thought about my Great Comebacks® family and my sponsors; and I knew without a shred of doubt what each one of these people would want me to do. So I'm coming home safe. Thank you for your support, your kind words and your friendship.
P.S. I have more stories from high up on the mountain. But first I need to get down to base camp.
For more details, visit Rob's No Guts Know Glory Everest Expedition blog.