Nagging health problems end Kentucky man's Everest quest

jwarren@herald-leader.comApril 15, 2013 

Breathitt County's Martin Douthitt is on his way home after giving up his effort to climb Mount Everest, and he could be back in Kentucky by Thursday.

Douthitt plans to fly out of Katmandu, Nepal, on Tuesday and is expected to arrive in Lexington sometime Thursday, according to Rita Lawson, who works at Douthitt's True Value Hardware business in Jackson.

Lawson said Monday that the information was based on emails received over the past few days. No one at the store has been able to speak with Douthitt directly, she said.

According to e-mails and other information that has drifted back to Kentucky from Nepal since late last week, Douthitt apparently developed intestinal problems, possibly an inflammation called dysentery, which forced him to cancel his planned assault on Everest, earth's highest mountain.

The problem developed while Douthitt and other climbers were making the challenging, 12-mile trek from Lukla, Nepal, to the base camp on Everest at 17,000 feet. At one point on the hike, Douthitt's illness forced him to remain behind at a small village overnight, then catch up with the other hikers later.

However, the problem had grown worse by the time Douthitt reached the base camp on the south side of the mountain early last week. Douthitt spent a few days at the camp before deciding that his energy was too sapped to attempt the arduous and dangerous climb for the summit at 29,029 feet.

"I'm sure he's going to be a little bit down when he gets back," Lawson said Monday. "But it sounds as though he made a wise decision."

Robert Cornett, a Georgetown resident who accompanied Douthitt on the trip, also had to return home because of an unrelated medical problem. Cornett also said Monday that Douthitt probably had made a smart, although difficult, decision to drop out of the climb. Evacuating him from the mountain would have been much more difficult if he had gone on to higher altitude, Cornett said.

In addition to Cornett, Lexington area residents Dale Torok, Robert Dungan and Mary Clay accompanied Douthitt as far as the Everest base camp. Torok, Dungan and Clay returned to Katmandu over the weekend, and were scheduled to fly home from there. They are expected back in Lexington late Tuesday.

Douthitt had hoped to return with them, but couldn't get on the same flight and was waiting for later plane, according to his Jackson office.

This is the third time medical problems have foiled Douthitt's dream of climbing Everest.

He visited the Himalayan peak in 2011, but didn't attempt to climb it because he thought he wasn't physically fit enough. He planned an attempt last year, but canceled it because of painful knee problems.

Before leaving for Mount Everest a few weeks ago, Douthitt, 67, said this probably would be his last attempt because of his age and the cost of the trip.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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