2023: Choosing to See's JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD
Shawn Cheshire and her team spent about a month in Nepal on their expedition to summit the highest mountain in the world. She hopes to be the first blind woman in history to summit Mount Everest.
From Shawn: "I think of Mt Everest almost every day.
I have had two surgeries on my ears. Hearing loss is quite terrifying when you cannot SEE.
It is possible that as a traumatic brain injury survivor and having eustachian tube dysfunction (which I was unaware of), something happened at extreme altitude. My eustachian tubes collapsed, became inflamed, which caused extraordinary pressure on my eardrums. Upon my arrival back in the United States back in May, I could hear NOTHING. My head and ears were excruciatingly painful. Wtf.
It is quite possible that what I was experiencing at base camp and trying to climb higher was in fact, my ears not my head. Or a combination of both.
So now I’m on this adventure of facing potential permanent hearing loss. It is quite devastating and very much defining.
This winter, my focus will be my ears and my health. My hope is to return to Mount Everest 2025."
HOW ARE WE DOING IT?
The expedition starts in Kathmandu, Nepal, where the team will meet and conduct a final gear check.
From here, they will take a small 8-10-seat plane to Lukla, which is known to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to its extremely short runway.
From Lukla, the trek into Everest Base Camp takes approximately 10 days and begins an integral part of a successful expedition, it is here where one can fully let go of the hustle and bustle of city life, and fully dial in to expedition mode.
The trek is extremely spiritual, rich in color, and full of friendly and welcoming people.
This trek climbs from 9,000 feet in Lukla to 17,500 feet at Everest Base camp where Shawn and the team will make their home away from home.
When climbing peaks of such extremely high altitudes, the body needs time to acclimatize and this process is achieved through what is known as ‘rotations.’
Above base camp, there are 4 camps before the summit. Over the course of a few weeks, Shawn and her team will climb through the infamous Khumbu Icefall (18,000-20,000 ft) to reach these camps. They will sleep at Camp 1 (20,500 ft) and Camp 2 (21,000 ft) for several nights and also climb up to Camp 3 (23,000 ft) before returning to Base Camp. Climbing up and down the mountain ensures their bodies are accustomed to the altitude.
After these rotations are complete, the team will rest at base camp before waiting for a good weather window to safely make their summit attempt of Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse. The summit weather window usually opens around mid-May and can be just a few days or up to two weeks.
Mountains are Shawn’s happy place, and she cannot wait to experience the powerful energy of these magnificent peaks as well as be a part of the beautiful Nepalese culture.
She feels grateful to be supported by an experienced Sherpa team as well as talented, accomplished South Africa high-altitude climber, Remy Kloos.
WHAT'S IT LIKE CLIMBING IN THE DEATH ZONE
In mountaineering, the death zone refers to altitudes above a certain point where the pressure of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended time span.
This is the area with an altitude above 26, 200ft; (8,000m), where there is so little oxygen that the body starts to die, minute by minute and cell by cell. The air has so little oxygen that even with supplementary air tanks, breathing is a formidable task. Each step requires a few breaths and movement is extremely slow.
Climbers aim to spend as little time as possible at this altitude.
WHY ARE WE CLIMBING THE MT. EVEREST AND MT. LHOTSE DOUBLE SUMMIT?
We advocate for the blind and visually impaired, but blindness does not define us. We want to empower everyone around us to embrace life with confidence and courage, a life where anyone can define themselves on their own terms. We want to support others to enjoy full and impactful lives. We want to inspire people to dream their wild dreams, no matter their circumstances. With a brave and bold heart, greatness can be achieved.
MEET THE TEAM
Shawn is a US Army veteran and former paramedic. She is completely blind. She is a 13-time Paracycling US National Champion, both on the road and the track and represented the US at the inaugural Invictus Games in London in 2014 and the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Shawn is a member of the US Army Women’s Hall of Fame. She is a world record holder for the fastest rim-to-rim-to-rim crossing of the Grand Canyon by a blind athlete.
In 2021, she raced her single bike from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean (3700 miles in 60 days), and in 2022, Shawn biked the Tour Divide, a 2700-mile mountain bike race from Banff Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide with over 400,000 feet of elevation change.
Remy Kloos is a professional speaker, mindset coach, wellness specialist and high-altitude mountaineer.
South African record holder; the first South African in history to summit Mount Everest and Mt Lhotse back- to-back within 24hours, the highest and fourth highest mountains on the world. She is also the first South African woman to summit Mount Lhotse.
Her dedication to a holistic approach to life, focusing on training the body, mind and spirit has allowed her to not only summit the highest mountains around the world but also to bring balance and flow to her life.
Remy is on a mission to empower people to infuse their life with passion and purpose and she is committed to leading a life of service and impact.