I like to think that the offerings on the summit to the four directions, to the heavens and earth spread in distance and time planted seeds of change and challenge. Since Pelion, individuals with disabilities have climbed the biggest cliffs and the highest mountains.
1990 Peace Climb
Bud Krogh and Warren Thompson, two of
the support people, reflected on Pelion’s use of a mountain climbing expedition
as a social statement and conceived the idea of a climb to support world
peace. They thought about a climb of Mt
Everest with a team made up of members from the
Jim is a power house in negotiation skills and Dianne an artful planner. The two of them orchestrated one of the most historic efforts in the stimulation of world peace known as the 1990 Peace Climb. Jim chronicles in his book, Life On the Edge:Memoirs of Everest and Beyond, his tireless globe hopping efforts to allow the governments to participate with each other and save political face
Mt Rainier was the training ground for the international team members.
On Everest it had been the coldest
Spring in living memory, capped by the longest period of sustained high winds
ever experienced, as the jet stream scoured the upper reaches of Everest
continuously for more than70 days. At
one point, the winds above the
Somewhat perplexed by the commotion, the Soviets conceded that they would transport the sheep further down the mountain in the morning to do their "dirty business". The Tibetans happily relinquished the fight and retired to their tents -- whereupon the Soviets led the sheep out of sight, behind the cook tent, and promptly killed them.
Within the hour, streams of menacing black clouds tumbled over the ridges surrounding Base Camp, filling the Rongbuk glacier valley from rim to rim. Heavy snow began falling, followed by intense gale-force winds, whipping up a frightful blizzard, knocking down tents and blowing supplies helter-skelter in every direction (some of which were found days later on the valley walls more than a thousand feet above Base). But, most frightening of all was the artillery barrage of lightning bolts striking everywhere at once -- the first one taking out the radio antenna in a deafening, blinding flash. The storm lasted for three days, and at the exact hour the sheep had been killed, it suddenly dissipated, evaporating into the mists and leaving behind all manner of destruction. Even the upper camps on the mountain had not been spared. The cardinal rule, adopted by unanimous consent of all the citizens of Base Camp, thereafter became "No more sheep"!
Subsequently, the climb progressed slowly and painfully up the mountain, fighting the incessant jet stream winds on the upper slopes with every step. Jim Whittaker began to worry that a summit bid might not be possible. The last 1000 feet up the summit ridge would be completely exposed and virtually impassible under such conditions. In an evening satellite phone call to his wife Dianne Roberts, at their home in Port Townsend. Dianne reminded Jim of the spiritual intervention on the Pelion climb. He wondered if Dianne might be able to contact Joe Washington and request a "stop the wind" ceremony. Dianne said she would try.
Dianne found that Joe Washington had
passed away two years before. She then
called Susan Page and Jake Page, two close friends of Jim and Dianne. Jake had been editor of the Smithsonian
Magazine and for several years had been working on projects with southwest
Indians. They put Dianne in contact with
a spiritual leader on the Navajo reservation. When she stated her request, she
was told that the Wind was the most
forceful and strong-willed of all the four Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire and
Water). "You cannot tell the Wind
to stop," he said. "You must
appeal to his ego. You must tell him how
great and powerful he is. You must
express your amazement that he can, so quickly and easily, assert dominion over
any place on Earth with his awesome power.
And, you must exclaim that even the apex of Earth's domain (
The first summit attempt was scheduled for the next day. At sunrise, Everest dawned in clear, azure skies. There was no banner cloud blowing from Everest's summit -- as there had been for every one of the preceding 70 days. The mountain was placid beyond belief. Jim was ebullient. He immediately called Dianne to congratulate her, but as he tried to announce the good news, Dianne interrupted, saying: "Jim! You're going to have to speak louder! There's a tremendous wind storm here. It's knocking down trees and threatening to tear the roof off! I can barely hear you!"
In Warren Thompson’s reflections on the descent from Pelion he touched on the transcendent connections between the mountaineer’s joy of the summit to non-mountaineers. He experienced another transcendent experience during the Peace Climb.
“While summit preparations were in their final
stages, I received a fax (on our satellite communications system) from a Fourth
Grade elementary school teacher in
I should have said that if you pursue your dreams, you can accomplish much more than you ever dream possible. I dreamed of putting Americans, Soviets and Chinese climbers together on top of the world's highest peak, to demonstrate what can be accomplished by dedication to a common purpose. What we accomplished was much more than that for an abused child half way around the globe.”
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