"Kripples in the Kumboo", as they affectionately call themselves, are a group of 5 people with disabilities and 7 able bodied trekkers, who in April and May of 1998 trekked over 60 miles from Lukla to Mt. Everest Base Camp and back to Syangboche in the Khumbu area of Nepal. A discussion of how to pronounce Khumbu evolved into "Kripples in the Kumboo", which the whole group embraced and they eventually had T-shirts made with the new group slogan.
The idea for the trek began after Tom Whittaker, a disabled climber, college professor and one of the founders of the Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group (C.W. HOG) in Pocatello, Idaho, had made two earlier attempts at the summit of Mt. Everest, one in 1989 and the 1995 Everest Challenge. He was going to return to Mt. Everest with the 1998 Ester-C Everest Challenge, his third attempt to become the first person with a disability to summit Mt. Everest. A group of people with and without disabilities thought the idea to trek into Everest Base Camp in support of Tom's 1998 climb would be a great adventure.
At Idaho State University, the Outdoor Program and the C.W. HOG program both operate under the "Common Adventure Philosophy." Every participant has a responsibility to be significantly involved in the planning and decision making before and during an adventure. In addition, all participants share risks and costs equally. Non particpants, organizations and institutions do not assume a responsibility for risk or liability for the adventures. Thousands of outdoor trips have been organized this way in Pocatello for almost 30 years. This "all abilities" trek to Mt. Everest was another dream that turned into another grand adventure for those who were willing to put forth the extraordinary effort to try.
Tom Whittaker's summit expedition team left the first of March to get on the mountain, establish their camps, and become acclimated. The All Abilities Trek departed on April 14, 1998 to begin their adventure.
On day 12 at Deboche, the members of the summit team trekked down to meet up with the trekkers to share stories, rest and eat water buffalo. But the main purpose was to provide inspiration to one another. When the summit team saw that the trekkers were all together, healthy and happy they were a bit surprised, to say the least. Even some of the experienced members of the summit team had difficulties on their trek to Base Camp and needed an extra day or two to recover.
When the trekkers arrived at Base Camp, the summit team greeted them with a "YEA HOGs!" sign along with plenty of cheers, hugs and tears. Jeff Rhoads said it best, "This is their Mt. Everest summit". Members of the summit team expressed their joy in witnessing the trekkers success and that our success would provide inspiration for them once up high on the mountain.
Naturally, when an individual or group of people attempt to do something out of the ordinary, there are non participant naysayers and critics who complain that they should not be allowed to try something which might be dangerous or controversial. On the other hand, there are others who may be very supportive and encouraging. When any risky adventure receives advance publicity, the resulting opinions may even become a public community controversy.
We will leave it to the reader's imagination to envision the positive and negative conversations and dialogue that might have occurred at the college, in the community, and within family members prior to the departure of this group of people with disabilities for an adventure of a lifetime, a trek into Mt. Everest Base Camp.
In conclusion, let it be said that the "common adventure," which became known as the "Kripples in the Kumboo" trek into Mt. Everest Base Camp, was wildly successful and gained worldwide positive attention. Even those who originally discouraged this dream are now silently and publically applauding this outstanding achievement. In a tribute to the trekkers, Idaho Governor Phil Batt said, "It shows the indomitable nature of the human spirit, the incredible accomplishments of people."