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MARC director, brother visit Mount Everest base camp

Jan. 25—DANVILLE — An outdoorsman by nature, Bob Stoudt, 50, director of the Montour Area Recreation Commission, recently checked off something on his bucket list: a trip to the base camp of Mount Everest.

Stoudt and his brother Joe, a principal at Montgomery Area High School, went to Mount Everest on a guided tour that ran Dec. 8-25.

"This has been an obsession of mine, since the late 1990s," Bob said on Monday. "Over the years, I have been reading books about Everest and mountaineering.

"Going there was always in the back of my mind as what I would like to do someday. That is, going to Mount Everest, but not necessarily climbing to the top. I do not have any climbing skills, but going to Nepal and seeing Mount Everest in person was something my brother Joe and I became obsessed with."

For years, nothing came of it. Stoudt married, and had kids "and there was always some reason not to do it," he said.

Two things changed everything, Stoudt said. One was the pandemic, "where everyone realized life is not guaranteed. And who knows what life has in store? If there is something you want to do. Do it while you can, because you might not ever have that chance again."

Bob turned 50 in 2023, "and it hit me that I don't know how many years I have ahead of me where I will still be able to do something as epic as going to Mount Everest."

Travels to EverestIn July, the brothers decided to make the trip at a time when in Nepal the weather would be cooperative and the crowds wouldn't be too terrible. Even though they'd miss Christmas with their families, December turned out to be the best time to go.

They signed on with a group through G Adventures, to the base camp. The company provided the Sherpa guides.

The Stoudts flew out of JFK Airport on Dec. 8 and arrived in Katmandu via Qatar Airways, on Dec. 9.

Katmandu is about 5,000 feet in elevation, similar to Denver. Stoudt dealt with the elevation, but he said the pollution in Katmandu is terrible.

"I don't enjoy flying, but I knew it had to be done," he said. From Katmandu, they took a much smaller plane "to what is arguably the world's most dangerous airport, Lukla, which is perched on the side of a mountain. It is a terrifying flight. But in the end, the flight was uneventful. It was terrifying, something I dreaded doing. My brother said, 'if we want to do this trip, we don't have a choice.'"

From Lukla, it was a two-week hike to Everest base camp, and then back again — a 75-mile round trip. "For us, it took eight days to hike up from Lukla to Everest base camp. Lukla is 9,400 feet elevation; the base camp is 17,400 feet elevation.

"We hiked short distances going up, because we had to acclimatize to new altitudes. Most people, including my brother and myself, took altitude medications to help our bodies adjust," Bob said. "If I hadn't, I couldn't have made the trip."

Going up to base camp was a challenge, Bob said.

Once they made it to base camp, Bob Stoudt had mixed emotions.

"We knew we had made it to Everest base camp," he said. "Going up, I slept terribly every night, a combination of mental stress you are under plus the high altitude. And fear of the unknown.

"It was such a great feeling to have made it there, and we saw all the landmarks. But part of me said, 'Man, I have to walk all that distance down the hill.' Another 40 miles."

He stressed that the duo hiked to the bottom of the mountain. "We did not climb Mount Everest," Bob said.

Joe Stoudt said reaching the base of Everest fulfilled a dream three decades in the making.

"Making it to Everest Base Camp was the culmination of a dream that began almost 30 years ago for me," said Joe Stoudt. "I think very few people get the chance or choose to take the risk and step outside of their comfort zones, to do the one thing they most dream of doing.

"It was surreal, and I was extremely satisfied in having achieved my goal. I am also so grateful that I was able to share the experience and memories with my brother. It truly was an epic adventure."

The Stoudts will give a presentation about their journey, using the many photos they took Feb. 4 at Montour Preserve.