Breathitt County man begins journey to climb Mount Everest

jwarren@herald-leader.comMarch 21, 2013 

Martin Douthitt, 65, of Breathitt County needs only to climb Mount Everest to achieve his dream of scaling the Seven Summits — the tallest mountains on each continent.

CHARLES BERTRAM | STAFF

Martin Douthitt flies out of Lexington on Friday morning with an MP3 player full of bluegrass music and high hopes for climbing Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain.

But Douthitt's lengthy journey begins well before he will get to the base of Everest.

Douthitt, 67, will travel from Lexington to Dallas and then to Dubai. From there he will go to Katmandu, Nepal. That part is a 36-hour trip.

It's a short flight from Katmandu to the tiny Tenzing-Hillary Airport at Lukla, Nepal, where he will begin a two-week hike to Everest.

"I think I'm ready," he said Thursday.

Douthitt will be accompanied Friday by friend and fellow Breathitt County native Dale Torok. Three other friends, Robert Cornett, Robert Dungan and Mary Clay, will follow shortly afterward.

The four will accompany Douthitt to the Everest base camp at 17,000 feet and see him off on the long and hazardous climb to the summit at 29,035 feet.

Ten people died trying to climb Everest last year, the third deadliest year on record, Douthitt said.

If he makes to the top, he will realize his dream of climbing the seven tallest mountains on Earth's seven continents, the so-called Seven Summits. He began the quest a dozen years ago.

Climbing the world's tallest mountain is a long, physically draining process, requiring weeks of climbing, punctuated by stops of several days each to acclimate to the increasingly thin air as climbers work toward the top.

Timing will be crucial. Douthitt figures he'll need to be within shooting distance of the summit by about May 25 to make a successful dash for the top.

"There's really only about one week out of the entire year when you can summit," Douthitt said. "It's too cold and stormy up to then, and right after that the rains start and you can't climb anymore.

"So what you try to do is get perched up on the mountain, ready and waiting for that one-week window to open when you can do it."

Douthitt will be in a group of four climbers led by experts from International Mountain Guides, a mountaineering firm based in Ashford, Wash.

To pass the time, Douthitt is taking along about 500 crossword puzzles, a Kindle loaded with adventure books, and an MP3 player with about 1,000 songs. He said he intends to listed to recordings by The Newgrass Revival and Goosecreek Symphony on "summit day."

"I like bluegrass the best, and it's really upbeat on the mountain," he said.

Douthitt had planned to work in his landscaping business Thursday, but he decided to make last-minute trip preparations instead. He has arranged for someone to live in his home and look after his two dogs and two cats while he's gone.

"I'm probably more nervous about leaving my pets than anything else," he said.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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