One-armed climber shares Mt. Everest conquest at LCC
Editor in Chief
Webster’s Dictionary defines inspiration as a person, place or experience that makes someone want to do or create something.
These words describe the incredible journey of the Gary Guller, who in 2003 became the first one-armed person to climb to the top of Mt. Everest in Nepal.
Guller told about 60 people about his journey in the LCC Health and Human Services Building April 10.
Lori Willett, manager of Human Resources at LCC, spoke on having Guller as a speaker.
“Gary’s speech is all about the things we are trying to do well at LCC – that is appreciate differences in individuals and cherish the things they do.” Willett said.
As a young climber in 1996, Guller was injured in Mexico during an expedition that killed one of his friends. Guller lost an arm, but eventually regained the urge to climb, thanks to inspirational words from his grandfather.
“There has never been a one-armed climber at Mt. Everest, ever. Be the first,” his grandpa said.
With new motivation, Guller began hiking and camping, eventually making his way back to climbing.
Guller said he was physically prepared to climb Mt. Everest in 2001, but wasn’t ready mentally. On his first attempt, he only made it halfway.
After word spread of Guller’s travels, he was asked by Dennis Rose, executive director of Coalition of
Disabilities in Texas, to do a talk about his experiences.
After his speech, Guller met a quadriplegic man.
“Would you ever take someone like me on one of your climbs?” asked the man, according to Guller.
Guller went on to recruit a diverse team of 30 members – over half with disabilities – to lead to the base camp of Mt. Everest, which is 17,000 feet up the mountain.
In March of 2003, his team flew to Kathmandu and stayed in the village a few days to adjust to the village atmosphere. Guller, then 36, said the natives of Nepal were very receptive to his group.
After their first days in the village, Guller prepared his team to begin their climb of Everest. Guller’s team was one of many teams that scaled the mountain together.
Guller remembers an encounter at 15,000 feet that he will never forget.
“There lived this old Sherpa man on the mountain,” Guller said. “He would give every single member of the expedition a blessing over a six-hour period.”
Ten days after this spiritual incident they made it to Everest base camp, 17,000 feet off the ground.
“We limped, bled, cried, fell and laughed all the way to 17,000 feet,” Guller said. “Only 40 percent of people even make it to base camp; 95 percent of our party made it.”
After celebrating with his party, Guller returned to reach his goal of being the first person with one arm to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, 29,029 above ground. He reached the top May 23, 2003.
“This expedition wasn’t about a one guy with one arm standing on top of the world,” Guller said. “This wasn’t about a person in a wheelchair; this expedition was about believing in each other with passion and compassion.”