Authors: Stories Behind the Books, Brian Dickinson
I had first heard about Brian Dickinson while listening to The Mens Room on 99.9 KISW. After hearing Brian tell his story, I knew I had to include him in this project. His book is called Blind Descent, his story of how he summited Mt. Everest alone and his difficult journey back down. Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, located in Nepal standing near 30,000ft above sea level. In his interview below, Brian talks about his preparation and how it certainly was not easy.
How long did you have your goal set on to climb Mt. Everest?
I’m not sure exactly since I’ve always been a big goal-setter and adventurous. I think the seed was really planted when I saw the Everest IMAX movie in ’98. I made a goal to climb the 7 Summits in ’08, which started making Everest more of a reality.
Can you talk about the window of time for climbing Everest? What time and how long is that window?
Everest is typically climbed in April and May, but some people have climbed it in the Fall. Since there’s only 1/3 of the air above 26,000’ (Everest’s summit is 29,035’), it takes 2 months to climb. The first month is acclimating to the higher altitudes so that your body is prepared to make a summit attempt. Once you’re fully acclimated you wait down at base camp for a 5 day weather window to make an attempt. There are only a couple days during the year that allow climbers to reach the top since the summit sits up in the jet stream and creates it’s own harsh weather patterns.
How do you choose the right Sherpa to summit with you and why did you only choose to summit with one Sherpa and not a group?
There are a few options when preparing an expedition. A western guided trip will handle all of the logistics and is the more popular method. I climbed independent, meaning I wasn’t part of a large team. I coordinated my Sherpa support and permits through a resource I know back in Seattle. I chose this route because I’ve had a lot of experience on other mountains and didn’t want to be a part of a larger team. It was a very intimate experience to have that much solitude on Everest.
Did you think about turning back when your Sherpa became ill?
Absolutely. Pasang and I had a conversation at 28,000’. We weighed out everything we knew at the time. We discussed the weather (good), how I was feeling (good) and most importantly how he was doing. He assured me he was fine and could get down. If I would have known what was going to happen I would not have continued, but in the mountains you live and die by decision. Fortunately I lived to tell.
When you started to descend down the mountain you had one life threatening occurrence after another, you lost your vision and you were low on oxygen to name a couple. During these moments, did you feel a spiritual force or a presence that could be challenging you at that time or helping you along the way?
I definitely felt a presence around me, but not one that was challenging me. There were definitely life-threatening challenges, but I feel the presence was keeping me at peace to overcome the obstacles. Then at 27,000’ I ran out of oxygen and when I dropped to my knees to pray I truly witnessed a miracle that ended up saving my life.
When you finally reached the base camp and you were able to get medical aid, what was the process like to get your eyesight back? Are their any long term effects of being snow-blind?
My eyesight didn’t completely return for over a month. It was a very painful and frustrating process, but eventually I could see again. I do have long-term damage in my left eye but it’s not too bad. It could be a lot worse.
Would you ever want to summit Mt. Everest again or what is next after climbing the tallest mountain in the world?
One of the best parts of climbing is the descent. That’s when you get to see everything you endured on the way up since you typically climb thru the night and summit in the morning. I didn’t get to see anything on the way down. It would be nice to see that amazing view on an uneventful descent, but I have no plans to return to Everest. There are no shortages of adventures on this earth and my kids are old enough now to explore the world with me.
How long did it take you before you decided that you wanted to share your story or what made you want to share your story?
As soon as I returned I was bombard with media coverage so the story quickly got out there. I was then introduced to my agent, Working Title Agency, and they got a contract with Tyndale House publishing. It all kind of happened quickly. I was just trying to climb a mountain and the next thing I’m sharing my story of survival with the world. Life is certainly interesting.
To read more about Brian Dickinson and see/hear interviews about him, you can see all on his website at http://www.briandickinson.net/ You can also follow Brian on Twitter: @briancdickinson His book, Blind Descent can be found on Amazon.com and your local book store.
Brian, thank you so much for being a part of this project.
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