MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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March 13, 2013

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 21/2 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