Winnipeg firefighter disappointed but proud of abruptly-ended Everest climb

A Winnipeg firefighter who was trying to fulfill a lifelong dream of climbing Mount Everest saw his journey cut short due to illness earlier this month, but the experience still left a mountain-sized impact.

Chad Swayze told 680 CJOB that despite all of his training and preparations, an unexpected bout of severe bronchitis – which saw him airlifted out – put a pin in his Everest adventure.

“It changed pretty much when I got to base camp,” he said. “I came down with bronchitis, basically. The dry air, the glacier water that you’re drinking on a continual basis … just the altitude. It wears on a person.”

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Swayze said he was airlifted to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu for a few days to recover, but despite thinking he was past his illness, he was struck with a stomach bug that definitively ended the climb for him.

“I didn’t have the energy reserves to make it back down,” he said. “I was blacking out. It was a rough decision.”

Despite his disappointment over not making it to the summit, Swayze said there were a few silver linings. Although he had to turn back on Everest, he was able to successfully summit the 20,305-foot Imja Tse – better known as Island Peak.

“It’s two metres shorter than Mt. Denali, which is North America’s highest mountain,” he said.

“It’s a very technical, physical mountain. We lived on there for three days. The very top is extremely technical – crevasse crossings, roped-in work, and rappelling and all that … so the silver lining there is I know I was very strong on that mountain on every aspect.”

The other positive news about the aborted Everest trek? Swayze still has his health, and didn’t put himself in a dangerous situation by pushing beyond his limits.

“Knowing the mountain is always going to be there, I have another chance, knowing I have my health,” he said.

“The one thing that has been instilled in me through my parents… was I can make that hard decision and turn myself around when it’s not safe to go on. Today’s not the day, because of health reasons, physical reasons, whatever it is, but I’m able to make that hard decision.”

Winnipeg firefighter Chad Swayze attempted to scale Everest in support of the Never Alone Foundation.

In addition to accomplishing a personal goal, Swayze’s climb was raising funds for the Never Alone Foundation – of which he’s a board member – a Winnipeg charity that focuses on making an impact on the lives of cancer patients.

Although he was hoping for $50,000 in donations, he’s still satisfied by the result, which brought in more than $12,000 for the charity, as well as an immeasurable amount of exposure from Swayze’s presence on social media and in the news, carrying a Never Alone flag on his expedition.

Everest has been in the news lately due to the deaths of 11 climbers already this season, as well as concerns about overcrowding.

Swayze said he can’t speak for other climbers, but that knowing his own safety limits has always been key when trying such a dangerous endeavour.

“You can train and be physically, mentally, technically healthy and everything, but if the mountain says ‘no’… whether it’s overcrowding or whether the weather blows in and you have to change your plan of attack, you really have to evaluate everything about the whole mountain and about yourself and conditions of other people on the mountain.”

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