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Peru with Mountain Madness

75-year-old Trekker Barbara Gessaman Makes a Difference with MM

Here is a great sto­ry from one of our won­der­ful trekkers, Bar­bara Ges­saman. She has been on sev­er­al trips with Moun­tain Mad­ness, includ­ing reach­ing Ever­est Base Camp at the age of 75! We are very hap­py to hear her sto­ry of how her adven­tures with us have changed her life and how she is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­ni­ties of the peo­ple that she vis­its on our trip. 

I am a John­ny Come Late­ly” in the trekking and climb­ing world.. It was when I was in high school that Edmund Hillary and Ten­z­ing Nor­gay reached the sum­mit of Mt. Ever­est. After read­ing all about it, I decid­ed that some­day I was going to trek in the big moun­tains, but that was not going to hap­pen for a long while. First I went to col­lege, became a kinder­garten teacher as well as a sci­ence and envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies coor­di­na­tor, mar­ried and raised a fam­i­ly and final­ly retired. All along, I kept up my inter­est in moun­tain climb­ing and after a cou­ple years of retire­ment, and at the age of 72, I said to myself, using the Nike logo JUST DO IT”.

Bar­bara Gessaman

The first thing I need­ed to do was find a trekking com­pa­ny. My intro­duc­tion to Moun­tain Mad­ness came when I was read­ing an Out­side Mag­a­zine, MM was doing a trek to Mt. Kil­i­man­jaro. I called the com­pa­ny and was told every­thing I want­ed to hear. I found out that MM is well orga­nized, take their social respon­si­bil­i­ty in coun­tries where they have a pres­ence very seri­ous­ly, care about giv­ing their clients a trek to remem­ber, care about the safe­ty, health and well being of the clients and staff and help the coun­try econ­o­my by hir­ing local peo­ple who are knowl­edge­able about the moun­tains. I signed up and was giv­en a lot of sup­port as I was prepar­ing for my Mt. Kili adven­ture, this includ­ed sug­ges­tions for a strong train­ing pro­gram (which I still use). I have been to Tan­za­nia twice with MM and have been to the Mt. Kili summit.

Life chang­ing expe­ri­ences can hap­pen when and where you least expect them, mine came about when I was trekking to Ever­est Base Camp with the fab­u­lous guide, Deana Zabal­do. I have been on two treks with MM to Ever­est Base Camp. My first trek was cut short before reach­ing Base Camp because I devel­oped Bron­chi­tis. The sec­ond trek was very suc­cess­ful. It was on these two trips that my life began to take a new path. Trekking with Deana and com­pa­ny was an eye-open­ing expe­ri­ence. Deana’s knowl­edge of the moun­tain, her com­pas­sion for the peo­ple and love of Nepal touched my heart. She told our group about the Nepali cul­ture, his­to­ry, gov­ern­men­tal influ­ence on the peo­ple, and the needs of the peo­ple. We learned how MM and Deana sup­port grass­roots social change through Chang­ing Lives Nepal. All of this opened a whole new world for me and I want­ed to be a part of it. 

Bar­bara at Base Camp

Dur­ing the sec­ond trek I learned about the orphan­age that MM and Deana help sup­port — Lit­tle Angel’s Children’s Home; this is one of the projects with­in Chang­ing Lives Nepal. I real­ly want­ed to go and vis­it but that would have to wait. As it turned out I returned to Nepal a third time.This time to teach in Chau­rikhar­ka, the vil­lage where many of the MM guides and porters live. Since I was going to be in Nepal for 212 months I would have time to vis­it the orphan­age. When I went, Nan­ga Dor­jee Sher­pa accom­pa­nied me; Nan­ga works for MM. When we arrived the chil­dren had just got­ten back from school they were eat­ing a snack, talk­ing and laugh­ing and get­ting ready to start on home­work. We had time to talk with all of the chil­dren and help with their home­work; it was a very hap­py place. How­ev­er, a new, larg­er home needs to be built for the present chil­dren and allow for addi­tion­al chil­dren. The land has been pur­chased and cleared but more mon­ey is need­ed to build the house.

Bar­bara with the kids at the orphanage

Thank you Moun­tain Mad­ness and Deana for open­ing up this world to me. I plan on vis­it­ing the home again in the sum­mer of 2013 but right now I am giv­ing talks about trekking in Nepal, of course always men­tion­ing MM. At the same time I am work­ing on rais­ing mon­ey for the orphan­age. Hope­ful­ly I can do more as time goes on!

~ MM Trekker Bar­bara Gessaman