Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

October 27, 2013

‘I’m nowhere I’ve ever been before’

Bluefield native journeys to see top of the world

GORAKSHEP, Nepal — In the 1992 Bluefield High School annual, Sara Foy, wouldn’t have been voted most likely to climb Mount Everest, but this spring, she made it more than halfway up.

Foy, an instructional designer in academic technology at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass., didn’t even like to walk in the woods near her home in Bluewell when she was growing up, but in late March of this year, she found herself on an airliner headed to Nepal to climb to the South Base Camp at Everest — 17,598 feet above sea level.

“I have been fascinated with Mount Everest for about 10 years,” Foy, 39, said during a telephone interview last week from Boston. “I climbed Mount Rainier a couple years ago and started thinking about going to Everest.”

Mount Rainier in Washington state is 14,409 feet above sea level. After leaving BHS, she earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and went on to earn her master’s in education from Boston University. Although she didn’t care about outdoor activities, she started hiking as a young adult. She hiked in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and climbed Mount Washington, 6,148 feet above sea level.

“Mount Everest was on my bucket list,” Foy said. She started saving for the trip to Nepal, but about a year ago, she got an unexpected push. “A good friend of mine was diagnosed with liver disease. I thought, why not just do it?”

Foy accelerated her savings efforts in terms of funds and vacation time, got permission from her employer to take four weeks of vacation at the same time and on March 28, she was flying to Kathmandu.

“It was the hardest thing I ever did,” Foy, daughter of Sam and Cathy Foy said. “The hardest leg of the trip by air was from Kathmandu on a little prop plane — a puddle-jumper — to Hillary Airport in Lukla. I didn’t think we were going to make it. The runway at Hillary Airport is on a 12 percent grade. It was the most frightening flight I’ve ever been on.”

Foy started out on foot at an elevation of 8,000 feet. “We could only hike five or six miles a day because of the altitude,” she said. On the 12th day of her trek, Foy started experiencing problems. “I didn’t think I could make it,” she said. “The guides turned me around and sent me back down to a high altitude clinic.” With a little therapy, she was able to return to the group she was hiking with and make it to the base camp.

“Our group had 19 climbers in it,” she said. “Twelve of them were Everest climbers. I didn’t have an extra $100,000 to go the rest of the way to the top.” The elevation of the South Base Camp is 17,598 feet above sea level.

The 4-mile trek took a total of 21 days, with 15 days to get to the base camp, three days at the camp and three days to return to Lukla.

“It just makes you appreciate what you have,” Foy said. “There are no roads, and people have to carry everything they need on their backs. The Sherpas have so little. I have a two-bedroom house and one bathroom. I used to feel a little uncomfortable to invite guests to stay there because I only have one bathroom.

“I’m never going to complain again,” she said. “At the base camp, there is no wood to build fires with. They use yak dung for heating and cooking. Every day that you were hiking was harder than it was the day before. The farther away in time that I get from it, the more I think about it. It is in the back of my head. It was a fantastic trip. It crosses my mind that I might like to go back again.”

She made new friends on the trip — people who share her passion for hiking. Since returning to the U.S., she has hiked in the mountains with one friend and did a 36-mile hike around Manhattan Island in New York. “That was different,” she said.

“The views were breathtaking,” she said. “There are like 1,500 people staying at base camp. You can’t see the top of Mount Everest from there. If you hike up another 500 feet though, you can see it. You look up and think: ‘No. I’m nowhere I’ve ever been before.” She was above 18,000 feet when she saw Mount Everest.

Foy arrived in Kathmandu on March 28 and arrived back in the U.S. on April 26.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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