After reaching the 17,000-foot level on Mount Everest earlier this month, Breathitt County's Martin Douthitt says he's optimistic about making an all-out attempt to climb the world's tallest mountain next year.
Douthitt and his climbing buddy, Stuart Harelick of Las Vegas, visited Everest's south base camp (altitude 17,590 feet) but had to drop plans to climb nearby Mount Lobuche when Harelick became ill.
Still, Douthitt, 65, pronounced the trip an overall success. He said that his knees held up well and that he came away feeling fit enough to try for the 29,035-foot summit in 2012.
Douthitt, who runs a hardware and landscaping business in Jackson, climbs mountains as a hobby. Everest is the last peak he must conquer to realize his dream of climbing all of the Seven Summits — the tallest mountains on each of Earth's seven continents.
"I've picked a guide for next year and the Sherpa porters that I'll use," he said Monday. "I'm planning to contact AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) and try to get them to sponsor me. I've heard that they're always looking for opportunities like this."
Douthitt and Harelick left the United States in late March, with stops in Bangkok, Thailand, and Kathmandu, Nepal. Then they flew to the Nepalese village of Lukla, whose tiny airport is the main arrival point for Everest climbers.
It took roughly two weeks for Douthitt, Harelick, their guides and Sherpa porters to hike from Lukla to Mount Everest, spending nights in small tea houses along the way, Douthitt said.
"There's no road, just a rocky trail," he said. "We hiked four or five days before we got our first glimpse of Everest in the far distance."
Finally seeing places he'd read and heard so much about was thrilling, he said.
"It's a magical place. These huge mountains are just absolutely spectacular when you start walking at the base of all of them. You look around, and here are all the famous mountains that you've read about.
But soon after they reached the Everest base camp — little more than a collection of tents on the frozen mountainside — Harelick developed a severe cold. Guides decided he should be moved to a lower altitude, and arranged for Harelick and Douthitt to be flown off the mountain by helicopter.
Harelick recovered quickly but doesn't plan to go back. Douthitt does.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "You can't pass that up."