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Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan


Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

MCAS Iwakuni is a mission-ready air station, capable of providing continuous base-operating support for tenant organizations and follow-on U.S. and allied forces during training, combat or contingency (HA/DR) operations throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
Achieving New Heights

By Cpl. Kurt Fredrickson | | November 30, 2000

It's an unforgiving place where failure means death, but for a Marine with an adventuresome nature, a spirit of determination, the Himalaya proved to be a worthy adversary.

Until now, the journey had always been a far off dream, but anything is possible when a Marine put his mind to it.

Growing up in the mountains of New England, combined with an adventurous nature and the drive to do what some only dream, was more than enough of a reason to take on the largest mountains in the world -- the Himalyas.

After a year of planning, and $7,000 worth of equipment, plane tickets and guides, I stepped off the plane in Nepal and made the transition from my world into an experience that would change my life forever. 

Like the strangers on the "Survivor" series, a group of 15 members were placed together by fate.  Although each member was from the United States, it was each one's destiny to meet in this simple country.  Together we would journey for a month in this adventure.

We boarded a twin-prop Otter for the most dangerous airfield in the world.  Nestled on the side of a mountain, the airfield town of Lukla is the only way in and out of the Himalayas, where  there is no such thing as an averted landing.  

The trek itself would last 21 days and take us across more than 70 miles of rugged mountains to our goal of reaching the Everest base camp and making it back to tell the tale.

Fortunately we landed safely, and met our guides and porters near the airstrip.  We put on our daypacks, tightened our boots and stepped off.

At the start of the trail, I looked up to see a dirty trekker laughing at me, and he said "You must be new, you're still clean."  Little did I know that 21 days later, my group would be saying the same thing.

It wasn't until the third day of our journey that we got our first glimpse of the white-capped mountains that defy the clouds.

Over the next week, we visited many small towns and monasteries, all the while gaining altitude on the rocky terrain of the mountains, where we left behind any trace of civilization.

On the way up, we traded our porters for yaks.  The yak, not the cleanest of beasts, serves as the off-road supply wagon in the high regions of the country.

As we crossed 15,000 feet, the tempo and mood of the trip changed.  We realized our true struggle had begun. 

Entering the Everest region, we had our first chance to conquer the more than 17,000-foot summit of a mountain.

Only two of us made it up on the first day with the aid of a sherpa, a local guide.  The following day the rest of the group made it to the summit, and enjoyed views of Nepal, Tibet and Mount Everest. 

These were the coldest days of the trek, with the temperature dropping below freezing during the night.

The next few days would be the hardest for some in the group, as we crossed a glacier and climbed the Chola Pass.

The trail joined with the main trail on the other side, leading us to the summit.
With frozen feet, burning lungs and muscles aching for oxygen, we made the hikes to the Everest base camp and Kala Pattar.

It took all of our strength and for some more than they thought they had.  Finally, the fear of freezing to death and not reaching personal goals had passed.  Only half of the group made the summit of Kala Pattar, the other half fell short.

During our journey, we met another expedition who had met tragedy in the mountains.  They were forced to return home without three of their fellow climbers, when tragedy struck, causing them to be encased in an icy tomb for all eternity, due to avalanche.

Some choose to take chances in life, and the greater the chance it is, often the greater the reward, but in some cases the individuals pay the ultimate price.          

With the Everest base camp out of the way and a successful summit of close to 19,000 feet, we headed back toward Lukla, feeling a sense of accomplishment.

By this point, the entire group had an understanding of what the Himalayas were. They are a beautiful, but an unforgiving place where a life can be taken at any given point and time.

At the beginning we were individuals, but by the end of the trail we were members of a unique society.  A society born under extreme measures, that only those who have experienced what we had accomplished could understand the magnitude of it and be a part of.

Based on the experiences during my trip, I realize that some chances, despite the risk, are worth taking in life.  The end result can be amazing.

Upon my return those who dared not venture into the mountains asked me, "why go to the Himalayas?"  It was Sir Edmond Hillary, the first man to summit Mount Everest, who answered the question, "Because it was there."