Photo courtesy of Daniel Stringham
By Steve Sears
Randolph resident and mountain climber, Daniel Stringham, recalls reaching the top of the earth’s highest mountain, Mount Everest (located at the China and Nepal border), on May 18, 2018.
“I certainly spent some time just sitting there, looking at everything, just going, ‘Wow! Wow! Look at this view from where I am right now.’ It’s an amazing feeling,” Stringham recalls.
“I had been working on the Seven Summits of the world. Those are the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. I’ve done six,” Stringham explains. Mount Everest was his fifth. “And while I didn’t necessarily set out to climb all seven, I liked the idea of tackling the mountains on that list.”
Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010 was his first Seven Summits challenge. “I had been a technical rock climber in my earlier days; late high school, early college,” Stringham says. “I quit when I got married because it was too dangerous, but started back up again at the suggestion of my wife.” After Kilimanjaro, he did another one of the seven, and then another. “I could see that I was strong and doing well, and that if I kept going at this pace, that I had it in me to do Everest. That’s not to say that I knew I was ever going to summit Everest, but I could see that if I had the right team and the right weather, it would be something that was within my reach.”
While there have been climbers who have stood proudly on its peak after a successful climb, Mount Everest is also a spot where many have met their death testing it. “The extreme altitude is dangerous,” Stringham says. “So, I had some trepidation over it.” However, when he had the unique opportunity to go with some climbers that he had met on various mountains and climbs, he took the leap.
There are emotional, mental, and physical preparations for climbing the 29,035-foot-high Mount Everest. “You do it by eliminating all of the things that are within your control,” Stringham says of the emotional and mental end. “That’s not a lot of things, but it helps you emotionally and mentally just knowing you’ve done your part. Whether it’s getting all of the right equipment, over the top training for months and months and months, studying the route knowing where the hazards are, that helps a lot. It really does.”
As for physical preparation, Stringham – who says for decades he has exercised six days a week – trained for eight months for Mount Everest. “That was a lot of training,” he says. “I’d also set up a room in my house where I would just keep the checklist and the equipment. I spread out the equipment as I got things, and I’d check the list and recheck it. I was always monitoring how I was doing. For my team, also, we had conference calls where we’d check in on each other and our exercise routines.” In addition, since Stringham and one other climber on his team lived at sea level, both had to train with altitude training masks for months. “That gets you ready.”
Stringham talks about the most fear that he had during the climb. “My first trip in and out of the Khumbu Icefall,” he says. “That’s a very hazardous place. A lot of people die. There are lots of avalanches and falling ice. And while I was in there for the first time, an avalanche went by. It was 100 yards away – that was scary. The next day after we went in the icefall, there was a big avalanche right where we had been the day before, and that was definitely a moment of fear. That certainly gave me pause when that avalanche hit where we had been.”
When Stringham and his fellow climbers reached the top of Mount Everest, individual and group hugs were shared, and Stringham placed a satellite call to his wife, Susan. “Lots of hugs, tears, photographs, and phone calls home,” he says.
Stringham, who did his sixth summit just as the pandemic hit in 2020, is eyeing another future climb. “I’ve got at least one more big one in me for sure,” he claims. “It’ll be one of two mountains. A seventh summit that’s missing for me is in Antarctica. I could go there. If I don’t do that one, I’ll do another mountain that’s in the Himalayas, that you actually have to pass on your way up to Everest Base Camp, Ama Dablum.”
Ascending to the summit of the earth’s highest peak, Stringham says, makes you confident that you’ve acquired the life skills to face anything. “You just really feel like you shouldn’t be afraid to tackle big things,” he says. “You just really feel like you have put something in the tank, a lot of confidence that you can try other challenges.”