Jun 17, 2012 - Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterWhen the men met for the first time in the late 1970s at a local Jaycees meeting, Bryce Born and Fred Perrett had no idea where their new friendship would take them. Over the years, the two Riverton men discovered a common interest in racquetball and had plenty of time to chat about different things between and after their games.
Often, their conversation would include polite jabs at each other's lack of ability to execute a kill shot, or apparent serving ineptitude, or even a willingness to conquer a host of the world's troubles.
But when the conversation turned to bucket lists -- things they'd like to do before they died -- Born threw out that he wanted to climb to the base camp of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.
That was two years ago.
"My grandparents owned a house in the Sierra Nevadas. The house was 125 years old then. They had National Geographics going back to the 1930s. I used to spend hours going through those magazines, and I remember a picture of a Sherpa with a load walking in the snow barefoot," Born said.
"When I was really young, I thought I needed to go climb it. Then it boiled down to going to base camp, and I realized people actually did that."
Certainly no easy task, the ascent to base camp was a climb to 17,570 feet along the southeast ridge on the south side of Everest in Nepal.
Perrett was ready.
"Bryce came to me. He had the idea. I love to backpack and loved the mountains. Always have," he said. "We are two different guys, but we get along so well. I've battled weight my whole life. It was a journey for us. But it was about, hey, we have to get our kids and grandkids moving.
"Exercise makes me feel better. Exercise and helping people and changing the way the world is right now the little bit that we can. If you think you can't do something... we went and did it," Perrett said.
After a dicey trip to a dangerous landing strip on the side of the mountain at Lukla, the two Riverton trekkers began their trip -- 10 days in and six days out -- under almost perfect weather conditions.
"The Himalayas are so big and so beautiful, it is just incredible. You just can't say any more," Perrett said.
The hike from Lukla to Everest is considered the most difficult trek in the Himalayas, according to Born.
"There were 40 people in our group. All of them made it to base camp, but there were five or six that should have bailed," Born said, adding that those hikers had to be carried on horseback part of the way.
But Born and Perrett made the entire climb on their own and were joined by Linda Archer, also from Riverton, and were with a group led by Warner Berger, the oldest man to summit Everest.
"This is the thing about Bryce and me that I am proud of. The Sherpas carried 33 pounds. We were required to carry 20-25 pounds on our backs all the way. There were young guys that came to Bryce and me and said, 'We bow to you guys. We thought you wouldn't make it.' The turtles have more of a chance to make it that the rabbits," Perrett said.
With the bucket list adventure to base camp accomplished, the two friends left Fremont County on Friday for their next adventure, a July 2 push to the 19,341-foot summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
With its high elevation, low temperature, and occasional high winds, the hike promises to be a difficult and dangerous challenge.
"The Kilimanjaro thing, more than the Everest thing, kind of snuck up on us. We started talking about it, and (wives) Julie (Perrett) and Sharon (Born) kind of gave the blessing, and one thing led to another," Born said.
Perrett, 60, and Born, 61, have been training for the climb since mid November and have included night hikes in their regimen.
"The big thing about Kilimanjaro, the summit day, we get up to what they call Ice Camp. It is 15,000 feet. We eat, lie down, and at 10:30 p.m. that night, they wake us up, pack up, have some biscuits and tea, and head into the night to climb the final 4,000 feet," Perrett said.
They hope to be at the summit at dawn, when the winds should be calmer.
Both Perrett and Born said that the elevation -- the summit is 2,000 feet higher than Everest Base Camp -- is their biggest concern.
"There is no guarantee, even as fit as we are, that we won't get altitude sickness. We are going on one of the longer routes. The idea is that we have another day and a half or two days of acclimation. Forty percent of people don't make it," Born said.
Although Mount Kilimanjaro is just a few hundred miles south of the equator, the climbers are expecting temperatures as low as -30 degrees on the summit and will travel through five climate zones ranging from rainforest to arctic on their climb.
Archer also is making the trip with Born and Perrett, and the group plans to go on an African safari on the Serengeti prior to their ascent.
"It's (the training) has all been fun. We are both ready," Perrett said.
Good thing. Because who knows what may still be in their bucket lists.
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