At the age of 5 I became a bilateral below the knee amputee. Due to a birth defect both of my feet were removed by the fine surgeons of Shriners Hospital.
I grew up in the small town of Shelley Idaho. I attended the local school from K through 12th grade. Being able to grow up with the "normal" kids was a real benefit for me. Some of my early childhood memories include football, basketball, bicycles, swimming and the fun stuff of being a boy in small town Idaho.
Jumping a ditch breaking a foot. Going hunting and breaking a foot. Learning to ski at age 12 I started to break legs left and right. Fortunately it was just a trip to the prosthetist and not the hospital. Just a little glue and fiber glass and all was well and mobile again.
My junior year in high school I worked in the potato fields during the harvest season. The cute little clod puller on the combine became my wife shortly after high school graduation.
The next few years became a blur of babies, jobs, and family obligations. 1981 brought me to Pocatello Idaho and an introduction Tom Whittaker and C.W. H.O.G. A dozen years later and 100 or so high anxiety HOG trips, I found myself talking about a trip to the Himalayas and Everest base camp.
It happened at my kitchen table over a cup of tea, Tom Whittaker talked of his disappointing second attempt to summit Everest on the North side. He told me the story of how Greg Child's brought a rock from the summit, gave it to him and suggested he put it back where it came from someday. When I asked Tom if he was planning to put it back he said, "Yea, I think I have to." My reply surprised even me. "Maybe we should do a HOG trip to Base Camp to cheer you on."
Two and a half years of on again, off again and then total commitment. Planning and logistics were shared by all. Cindy Whittaker did the other 85%. We planned and prepared, cussed and discussed, and worked out - faithfully. Physical preparation would make the going a bit easier. Mental preparation was an absolute must. My wife and I discussed openly the possibilities of friends dying.
Touching down on the tarmac at the Kathmandu airport was the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime.
This was the beginning of 12 personal journeys. Mine began with my first smell of a 3rd world city. Oh my! The chaotic ride to our hotel. Scary! Finally collapsing in a bed for the first of 45 nights in Nepal.
To experience the hardships of an extreme hike with the comradery and support of those who went was a life altering experience. Jeff Brandt, with video camera always ready recorded and documented our every thought and move. He would run ahead to sat up a shot, run back for another, and than be jogging at 16000 feet to catch up to the front again. Jeff shared with me his feelings and frustrations of thinking his camera work was anything less than perfect. The emotions along with the trials and tribulation that jeff captured on video is nothing short of an artistic masterpiece that will stir the souls of those who see it.
If we ever have a war I want to be the trenches with Tom McCurdy. Facing adversity in the presence of Tom made me a better man. He never showed fear. When the elements became harsh the wind blew and the snow swirled it always brought a smile to Toms face. It doesn't get too hard when you're as hard as Tom.
The HOGs trekked to Everest Base Camp in support of Tom Whittaker's third Everest expedition. Everyone made it. Tom became the first disabled person to stand on the top of the world. Jeff Rhoads, became the first person to summit twice in one week. Tom, Ike, and Kyle were the first wheelchairs in Base Camp. Lizzie Whittaker the youngest at 6 years old to be a yak driver and walk the whole way there. Myself, a double amputee, was also a first to Base Camp. No one got sick, or hurt and nobody died.
The old saying, " We came, we saw, we conquered." may be bit dramatic. The fact is we did. Friendships were forged in steel. Love and concern for another before yourself didn't come from a book, it just was.
Thinking back, emotions still run high. I'm truly grateful for the love and support of my family and friends. Especially my wife of 23 years, mother of our three children and grandmother once. She was with me every step of the way. Encouragement and inspiration, she was mom to everyone. God bless people like my little yak woman. There are those who truly couldn't have made it without her. Thanks hon!
Soon after I returned home life quickly became routine. I began thinking now what? The phone rang and Tom Whittaker was on the other end. It was good to hear from him. When I proposed the now what question to him I was hoping to hear an idea about retiring on a Mexico beach somewhere. Tom said, "You know DeRoche that the HOGS didn't really climb anything - you guys just walked up to 17600 feet. What do you think about Kilimanjaro?" I'm there, buddy!