A father of three, grandpa to three and a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Frisco recently returned from a trip to Mt. Everest’s Base Camp. Kory Aoyama fulfilled a lifelong dream through the 10-day trip.
“Ever since I was a little kid I had a fascination with Mount Everest,” Aoyama said. “I think that’s true for a lot of people that like the outdoors, like hiking.”
Last year, while on a trip to Colorado, Aoyama stopped in a NorthFace clothing store. That is where he first saw a poster advertising guided treks to base camp.
“I didn’t realize that there were people that could guide you to base camp,” he said. “I always thought that was just for climbers.”
While the phrase “base camp” may conjure up thoughts of a simple hike, Aoyama said that is not the case. People headed to base camp have to fly into Lukla first.
“The flight in itself is pretty adventurous because it’s a shorter runway than normal and you’re in a twin engine plane with 20 people,” Aoyama said. “That plane has to hit that runway just right and if they overshoot, you hit the mountains.”
Lukla sits at an elevation of 9,000 feet, and base camp is at about 17,600 feet. For reference, Mount Everest is about 29,000 feet at the peak. The trip to base camp was scheduled to take two and a half weeks.
“The pictures don’t tell the whole story,” Aoyama said. “There’s nothing like actually being there and just looking and being surrounded by the majestic mountains, it’s just incredible.”
Climbers do not fly directly into base camp because the extreme elevation change could be fatal if they were not given time to acclimate. The hike to base camp gets trekkers accustomed to the elevation change gradually.
“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Aoyama said. “It’s a hard trip to make, and it’s not a quick trip.”
Aoyama was born with only one kidney with 40 percent function, and had to get the green light from his doctors before embarking on the climb. A significant amount of training – predominantly cardio – was required before the trek. Winter training wasn’t possible in Texas, so Aoyama had to go to Mount Washington to get the hang of climbing in ice climbing crampons, a device that attaches to boots for grip.
“You obviously have no way here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to train for altitude, so one thing I would do was work out in a gym on a treadmill and take it up to the maximum incline for an hour at a time,” he said.
In addition to making it to base camp, Aoyama had plans to ascend Island Peak. However, his trip ended early when he had to be helicoptered out of base camp due to altitude sickness. As it turns out, the group that he was supposed to climb Island Peak with had to turn around because of bad weather. No one from that expedition made it to the 20,000-foot peak.
“One of the things I found more challenging, outside of the physical challenges, were just the living conditions,” he said. “You’re staying in a third-world country that is challenged with a number of things, and then you get into the mountainous region and you’re limited on diet and lodging.”
Aoyama had to limit the weight of his bags for hiking; however, he still found space to bring the children in the villages coloring and sticker books. For him, giving away the books was one of the most memorable experiences.
“That was incredible just to see the excitement that those kids had,” Aoyama said. “These kids were so happy as you walked by them on the trail.”