One of Adam Hodges’ passions is Rock Steady boxing classes at Anderson Health and Fitness Center.
In 2019, Anderson Fitness began boxing class for patients with Parkinson’s disease, and Hodges, CEO of Anderson Fitness, reached out to attendees. This closeness led to a desire to incorporate his love for mountaineering into awareness of Parkinson’s disease.
Ascent For A Cure was born and Hodges decided to pursue a long-standing goal of climbing Mount Everest. The trip was originally scheduled for 2020; the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Hodges to delay his plans for a year. In early April, Hodges finally began his journey and reached Everest’s Fourth Camp before bad weather forced him to turn back just before heading for the summit.
Now, Hodges is back at Meridian to help run the Rock Steady program, and he said the feedback he received from boxers helped make the trip rewarding.
“They were thrilled with it all,” Hodges said. “They were all praying for me and are happy that I’m back. It meant a lot to them that this mountain climb was linked to the Parkinson’s program, and in terms of Parkinson’s awareness it was a total success. Even now, I meet people that I don’t know who tell me that they have been following my rise (online), so we have been very successful in that regard.
Hodges took off from Meridian on April 11 and arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 13, spending a few days there before heading to Everest on the Nepalese side. At the time, Hodges said everything was normal in Kathmandu when it came to COVID-19, but that would change later during his time in the region.
From Kathmandu, Hodges flew to Lukla Airport and began the 10-day trek to Everest Base Camp.
“It was amazing,” Hodges recalls. “It was probably my favorite part of the climb, the hike, because every day you would go to a new village and cross a lot of suspension bridges – bridges held up by very high cables which was awesome. Occasionally you will spot some of the mountains, possibly including Everest. “
After arriving at base camp, which Hodges says is about 17,000 feet above sea level, he and the group he was with spent several days resting before planning his rotations.
“The way they climb Everest these days is you do a few rotations,” Hodges explained. “Your first rotation is to leave base camp and walk through the Khumbu Icefall, which takes around seven hours and is one of the most dangerous parts of Everest. Then you go up to Camp 1, and from there we stayed overnight and went to Camp 2 and spent a day or two before walking to the base of the Lhotse face, which is the bottom of the face. where you go up to camp. 3, then we’ve come all the way, and that’s rotation one.
Back at base camp, Hodges said the group decided to travel to the Nepalese village of Dingboche, about six or seven hours down the mountain.
“We spent four or five days resting, and at that point you go up the mountain and do it again, this time hoping to get to the top,” Hodges said. “This is where things get interesting. Things are going well, and we are heading back to base camp and are already aware that there is a huge COVID outbreak in India, so we are sort of avoiding Indian climbers. because we know what’s going on in India. We start to hear rumors that he went to Kathmandu and the Khumbu valley up to the mountain and even to the base camp, and it was true Shortly after, some of the expeditions stop and return home, and we fear the Nepalese government will shut down everything.
Instead of stopping the expedition, the group leaders returned them to Camp 2 at 22,000 feet above sea level.
“If you’re going to stay at that altitude for an extended period of time, it’s pretty tough,” Hodges said. “The first of two Bay of Bengal storm systems in India is coming, so we’re pretty much stranded at Camp 2 for eight days in a snowstorm at 22,000 feet. “
It was late May at this point, and the group expected a weather window to reach the summit. After eight days at Camp 2, they went up to Camp 3 on the Lhotse face.
“It was incredibly difficult because you spend pretty much a whole day climbing an ice wall, and you get to the top and you have a tent that’s pretty much carved into the edge of the ice wall, and it’s not. not a good place to be, ”Hodges said. “So you spend the night there, and the next morning you can’t wait to go out because it doesn’t feel safe at all. You have things above you that can fall on you, and you can fall from that wall of ice. For me, this is one of the dangerous areas of Everest.
It took about 10 hours the next day to get to Camp 4, and despite rumors for two weeks the weather would be good for a push to the top, the weather is terrible with winds blowing at 70 mph, Hodges said.
“I was really confused because I had heard about that window, and after all this time we’ve got a terrible time,” Hodges said.
A DIFFICULT DECISION
After arriving at Camp 4 around 3 p.m., leaders of the Sherpas – Tibetan people known for their mountaineering skills who often lead expeditions to Everest – said they planned to push up to the summit at midnight.
“I’m very torn because the weather is bad, and I hear from some of the other Sherpas that they don’t like it, but it was my opportunity and a chance,” Hodges said. “I had invested all that time, energy and money to get to this point, and that was it.”
Hodges and the other climbers opted to wait until the next day to see if the weather improved, but by noon the next day the weather hadn’t changed.
“My Sherpa, who had climbed Mount Everest four times, I could tell he didn’t want to go,” Hodges said. “He had two young children at home in his village and I had family at home, so the dream kind of ended for me then. We decided to go down, and once we did, I was like, “I just want to get off this mountain and get out of all these dangerous areas and go back to base camp.”
After returning to base camp, Hodges stayed there for several days before taking a helicopter back to Kathmandu. When he arrived in Kathmandu, the city was completely closed due to COVID-19, something Hodges described as surreal. Eventually, Hodges returned home to the United States.
“I have no regrets,” Hodges said. “I don’t feel like I made the wrong decision. Until then the risk was a controlled risk, but at Camp 4 it seemed like it was too risky. I was aware of all the stories of things that can happen higher up the mountain, especially weather related events, and it just didn’t make sense to me. It was hard. It was a difficult call. “
SOLID AS A ROC
Doug Hawkins was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2019 and began attending Rock Steady classes in August of that year. Class size grew from around 15 to 30 before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing the class to be suspended.
A year later and with the participants vaccinated, Hawkins and the others returned to regular Rock Steady workouts. When he learned of Hodges ‘plan to climb Everest and its connection to awareness of Parkinson’s disease, Hawkins said he was touched by Hodges’ dedication to him and his fellow patients with Parkinson’s. Parkinson disease.
“When he came over and told us he was going to do it, everyone’s faces lit up,” Hawkins said. “It’s really cool and special that he’s including Rock Steady on his trip, knowing it was something he wanted to do and how he wanted to take us on his trip. He has his challenges, just like all people with Parkinson’s have challenges, so it was significant that he did something like that.
Hawkins said, however, that climbing Everest to raise awareness is just one of the many ways Hodges made a difference for himself and his fellow Rock Steady participants.
“We don’t know what my physical and mental status would be if he hadn’t started Rock Steady class here,” said Hawkins. “It meant the world to me and many other people I know. It really helped me, not only physically but also mentally. It basically helps us fight a disease for which there is no cure. It’s really special what Adam did and what his whole team does for us.
Hodges’ goal is to climb the highest peak on each of the world’s seven continents, and he has already done so in North and South America and Europe. Currently, Hodges is planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
“I think I have a way of doing it with the locals there, which will keep the costs down, so it would be nice to go ahead and get that experience and climb that peak,” he said. Hodges said.
Hopefully that will happen this fall, Hodges said.
“It’s a high mountain but nothing like climbing Everest, and the price is reasonable,” Hodges said.
Although he did not reach the summit of Everest last May, Hodges said he did not close the door to try again somewhere on the road. In early August, Hodges said he texted his sherpa in Nepal asking about the future of climbing the world’s highest mountain.
“I saw myself going back to Everest in two years and trying again,” Hodges said. ” I want to try. I know I can do it and I know what it is until the point where I had to turn around. I would love to try it one more time.