Friday, March 4, 2011

Climber Narrates Harrowing Himalayan Adventure

The accident happened on Summit Day, four weeks into the Himalayan expedition. Jack Hudock of South Berwick and the 15 members of his climbing team were within hours of the 23,494-foot summit of Mount Pumori, an ice-capped peak on the Nepal-Tibet border about three miles west of Mount Everest.
At first, Hudock wasn’t aware anything was wrong. He and another climber were plodding up the ice field, laboring heavily just to breathe at that elevation, while on the ridge ahead of the team two sherpas were putting in the route with snow stakes. But before the route was fully secured, the climber behind the sherpas put his weight on the rope, the same rope linking all the climbers, and disaster struck.
Hudock will present a slide show about his 2006 expedition on Tuesday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Noble High School library. The event is free and open to the public. Snow date is Wednesday, March 9.
The event is part of the first annual Community Read sponsored by Berwick Reads and Noble Adult & Community Education. For the past month, a number of MSAD 60 families and school children have been reading “Peak” by Roland Smith, a fictional account of an American boy who attempts Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
Hudock, 46, was initiated into climbing in 1989 on Mount Rainier in Washington, where he and his brother Joel were turned back by high winds and blowing snow at 11,000 feet. Undaunted, he climbed New Hampshire’s Mount Lafayette the following year, fell in love with the White Mountains, and has climbed many of the Whites in the years since.
During an African safari in 1998, Hudock and his then-wife summited Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, which at 19,298 feet, is the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
A few years later he struck up an internet acquaintance with Dan Mazur, the famed American hiker best known for leading Greg Mortenson’s 1993 K2 expedition described in the bestselling “Three Cups of Tea.” Mazur invited Hudock to join him on a Rainier expedition in 2002, and this time he successfully summited the highest and most glaciated mountain in the continental U.S.
“That experience inspired me to do something bigger,” said Hudock, who works for American Airlines. “I mentioned to Dan that I was looking into climbing Aconcagua in South America, the highest peak in the Americas, and he suggested, why not come to the Himalayas and climb with us? I thought there was no way, you must have to summit certain smaller mountains first, but I took him up on it.”
It was Mazur who, two months after he had to leave the Pumori expedition because his father was ill, helped rescue Lincoln Hall, the Australian climber who collapsed and was left for dead on his descent from the summit of Everest. Mazur and several of his clients abandoned their own summit attempt to save Hall’s life.
Is there another mountain in Hudock’s future?
“Well, I’d like to do an 8000 meter when I’m 50,” he said with a grin. “Maybe Shishapangma in Tibet, the 14th highest mountain in the world.”
Photo caption: Jack Hudock, seen here at 20,000 feet on Mount Pumori with a photo of his children, Alexy, now 10, and Max, 8, will present a slide show about his climbing expedition Tuesday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Noble High School in North Berwick. (Courtesy photo)