Former NM governor recalls Mount Everest climb

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson successfully made the climb to the top of Mount Everest with the help of Sherpas in 2003.

KRQE News 13′s Bob Martin went with him for part of it.

So what did he have to say about this week’s tragedy?

“It isn’t so much about getting to the top as, although that’s the plan. It’s about having given it the best shot. Really the best shot possible,” Johnson said.

Gary Johnson, just before his team led by Taos guide Dave Hahn and supported by many Sherpas, made it up Mount Everest.

Johnson says climbs like his would not be possible without the expertise and assistance of the Sherpas.

“They’ve got this down pretty well. They know how to navigate through the icefall but it’s the unknowns,” he said.

The Khumbu Icefall is a sprawling, jumbled maze of giant blocks of ice that is constantly in motion, moving about 8 inches a day.

Sherpas rig most of the ropes and precariously perched ladder bridges needed to cross this barrier.

Johnson often recalls one day at base camp when he heard a roaring crash of ice above.

“And I watch a quarter of the Khumbu Icefall collapse literally in front of my eyes. And I said that it was possible that, that kind of avalanche, if it had been filled with Sherpas or climbers, could have killed 20. And it looks like that’s exactly what happened,” Johnson said.

Johnson says the icefall is a game of Russian roulette for all.

But while he and other climbers will traverse it maybe six times each Sherpa will cross it two or thee dozen.

“The more times you go through the Khumbu Icefall, at some point it’s going to catch up to you,” Johnson said.

During Johnson’s last descent, from the summit push, there was another roar as they were right on top of the Khumbu and the ice rumbled beneath their feet.

“And for one minute it was a very real holy cow, is this, is this the end?” he said.

Johnson says the risks are accepted by all who take on Everest.

“People are going to continue to want to want to climb the highest mountain in the world and this is the way you get there,” he said.

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