My name is Ike Gayfield. I am a 50 year old, Afro-American male. I was a track and field athlete in college with my most notable accomplishment being named as an Honorable Mention NCAA All American in 1969. I have an extensive background in skiing, backpacking, climbing, general mountaineering and river rafting.
In 1982, I was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder that is progressive in nature. The disease, which is very similar to Multiple Sclerosis in origin, has been specified as Transverse Melitis. The disease effects my ability to ambulate, I walk with the assistance and aid of a cane, and I use a wheelchair approximately 50% of the time.
Until being invited to participate in the All Abilities Trek to Mt. Everest by my friends and colleague Tom Whittaker and his wife Cindy Whittaker, I had never dreamed or imagined myself going to Nepal or the Himalayan Mountains. Although I had an extensive background in skiing and climbing, working as both an instructor and part time guide, I had not even given much consideration to going to the Himalayan mountains. With the onset of my disability and living with a disability for more than 10 years, I had basically placed mountain trekking as an idea and concept outside of my thinking. Although I had continued to be an active outdoorsman I considered trekking, due to my disability, as not a practical activity for me.
When Tom and Cindy invited me to participate in the All Abilities Trek, I was occupied with my career as a public administrator, being a husband and a father, and spending my spare time snow and water skiing. The driving force for my participation in the All Abilities Trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest came from encouragement from family and friends. At one point, I felt that others were wanting me to go and participate more than it being something I wanted to do for myself. After deciding to go on this major trek/expedition, my energies and focus became centered around preparation and the actual participation in the trek continued to seem unreal. It was not until I was actually in Kathmandu that I came to the realization that I was about to engage in an adventure of a life time. Much of the comprehension around participation, as well as my actual participation, were at times overwhelming.
One of my most overwhelming experiences was actually arriving in Everest Base Camp. Upon arriving in base camp I experienced physical and emotional overload. I felt as if I had just arrived on the moon without prior preparation for arrival. I came to the realization that I had focused my attention on going, 'just getting to Base Camp' but had not made mental preparation for my actual arrival. At this point I was unable to maintain my usual emotional control and found myself totally overwhelmed.
Memorable points of reference included a diverse group of folks coming together with a common goal in mind, 'to reach Base Camp'. The group's ability to grow and mature into a highly functional and efficient unit to overcome an objective that had the potential to be filled with numerous barriers and pitfalls. I was very impressed with the individual, as well as, the groups level of determination and their desire to see that everybody made it to the defined objective. My participation in the All Abilities Trek gave me an opportunity for high adventures, adrenaline rushes, and a shear appreciation for the mountains, the people and the culture of Nepal. It also gave me an opportunity to appreciate all that I have in my life. As much as anything, this experience gave me a greater appreciation of my family and all that they give and share with me.
In retrospect, I bring back from this experience the feeling of grand accomplishment and fulfillment, as well as knowing that I have participated in the experience of a lifetime. I have been back for over three months now. I still think about the All Abilities Trek to Everest Base Camp on a daily basis, which suggests to me the power and the profoundness of the experience.
Thanks to Cindy and Tom Whittaker for including me in the experience, and a special thanks to my darling wife, Diane, for allowing me to have this experience.