Kentuckian who climbed Everest in 2004 says she would never do it again

jwarren@herald-leader.comFebruary 10, 2013 

Mills Funk Halpin says Martin Douthitt should have a good chance of reaching the summit of Mount Everest if he's in top shape and has good guides helping him.

"Anyone who tries to climb Everest and says it's not hard is lying," Halpin said. "The climbing itself is very hard. The altitude obviously is extremely stressful on your body and your mind."

Halpin, a Centre College graduate and Bowling Green native, knows a bit about Everest. In 2004 she became the first Kentuckian to climb the world's highest mountain.

Douthitt, 67, of Breathitt County, leaves Kentucky in April for what he says will be his last attempt.

Halpin said her climb went smoothly, but she became sick at times on the mountain and developed a high-altitude cough so severe it tore cartilage on her ribs. "It was excruciating," she recalled. "I was pretty sick when I got back to Kentucky; my body was just spent. I got home in June, and I had the cough for at least a month afterward. I guess I came through it all right. I wouldn't do it again."

Halpin now lives in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and is the mother of two young boys. But nine years ago, she was a relatively new but enthusiastic mountain climber who moved quickly from peaks like Oregon's Mount Hood to attempt Everest.

Everest was her last major climb. She went back to the mountain to visit the base camp a few years ago but didn't attempt the summit.

"Having good guides going with you is as important as anything," she said. "Another important part of a successful climb is the cleanliness of your camp. If you're going to get sick with all the germs that are brought up there all the time, you're not going to have any success at all."

John All, a professor at Western Kentucky University, climbed Everest a few years after Halpin. Douthitt hopes he can join the list.

"If he is going with good group, I'd say he already has a foot in the door," Halpin said of Douthitt.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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