People do not decide to become extraordinary.
They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.
Interview with Todd A. Macy who arrived on the top on 22 May, 2007 at 7:30AM
by Sara Romoli
I suppose anyone who is a climber and has spent considerable time in the mountains can’t help but want to climb the highest mountain in the world. I don’t consider myself a “peak bagger” i.e. wanting to climb Everest for the sake of saying I did it but it was just a natural evolution in my progression. Having grown up in Colorado below a large mountain it was always a childhood dream.
Was this your first attempt at climbing Everest?
Yes. I feel fortunate to have summited on my first attempt because there are so many variables (and luck) that go into it (preparation, weather etc..)
How did you train for the climb?
I’d like to think I trained for it my entire life because experience is everything in mountaineering. Especially on large mountains and long climbs like Everest. I’m always in good physical shape but I increased my training regime 6 months prior to where I was cycling 150 miles a week (leg strength) and swimming close to 10 miles a week (pressure breathing).
How long have you been climbing?
Since I was 9 years old.
Do you consider yourself an expert climber?
Yes, although not in a technical sense. I consider myself an expert high altitude mountaineer but I don’t do a lot of technical rock climbing.
How many people were in your group? Did they all they make it to the top?
There were 12 people on my original expedition and 8 people summited. This is a high percentage due to experience, strategy and weather.
What is the one thing you were not prepared for when you actually started your climb?
I don’t think there was anything I wasn’t prepared for but our weather did cooperate. If we experienced a difficult conditions by Everest standards i.e. white out conditions and temperatures 60 degrees below zero I may have thought differently.
Did you ever have any doubts that you would reach the top?
Yes. You can’t go to any mountain and expect to summit because there are so many variables. Regardless of size, the weather/conditions are volatile and can change quickly. If you climb because you’re expecting to summit you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and will likely get yourself and others in trouble (It’s what we call summit fever). Getting to the top is only half way and people typically die on the way down because they over exert themselves trying to summit. For me mountaineering is about the experience, spending time with local people doing what I love. Summiting is icing on the cake. So yes, I had doubts the whole climb because things change quickly but physically I felt strong and I was able to stay healthy.
What was the most dangerous part of the climb?
On the South side of Everest it’s the objective danger in the Khumbu Icefall. In order to acclimate its necessary to pass through the icefall on ladders and across crevasses several times (I climbed through the icefall 8 times total). The glacier is melting during this time and danger of getting hit by parts of the glacier peeling off or moving is high.
If you were to do it again, is there anything you would do differently?
No. Fortunately I felt like the experience of our team, strategy and preparation made for a successful summit bid. Obviously, as mentioned we got lucky with weather (I climbed in May ’07 which was a very good weather year).
How long did it take you to reach the summit?
Everest is so big it takes weeks to acclimate so you essentially climb the mountain several times moving higher each time then returning to base camp for rest. For example, it took three weeks to get to base camp at 17,500 ft because we were acclimating properly. I then spent another month on the glacier and the entire expedition took over 2 months.
What kind of feeling comes over you once you are standing on the highest point in the world?
It’s hard to explain the feeling of accomplishment...I inexplicably cried and found myself overwhelmed with emotion which I didn’t expect. You don’t have all of your faculties at 29k ft. so the altitude has an impact. You also can’t fully celebrate because you’re only half way there and need to descend carefully.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering climbing Everest?
Don’t even think about it unless you know you have the experience and you’re an accomplished mountaineer. Too many people take it lightly because they’ve always dreamt of it and it puts others in danger and many people die. It’s a very serious endeavor, only for those who are experienced and prepared. It should be an evolution having had experience on other 8k meter peaks or equivalent. Everyone should understand that the risk is death when you’re climbing mountains like this.
How did climbing Everest change you?
I don’t think it has at all other than I feel more worldly having spent time with such wonderful people in such a beautiful culture as Nepal. Its changed me just like any travel would impact someone when you’ve been able to spend that much time in a different part of the world, especially in the most fantastic mountains in the world.
What did you learn about yourself in climbing Everest?
I’ve certainly learned the limits of my physical aptitude but I also feel proud of the tenacity and stamina it takes to set a long term goal and achieve it.
Has your success on Everest changed how you deal with others in your life?
This is a better question for Allison but I don’t think so. I think any mountaineers who spend time in places like this understand the fragility of life and they find themselves settling down following an expedition like this more than they would otherwise.
What is your next great adventure?
I’m going to Ecuador in a few weeks to climb a couple volcanos! Bottom line is I love the outdoors and that appreciation is one of the best gifts my parents have given me. I’ll spend the rest of my life traveling the world to experience what nature affords us and whether its surfing, fishing, climbing or otherwise.