Out of Gas Out of Time

I awoke at midnight on the 18th – something felt “funny”.  I was groggy and not conscious enough to care to find out what awoke me so I went back to a more fit full sleep.  I was soon awakened again and now clear enough to know that it was the prayer flags over my tent.  I have heard these flags for weeks now and had grown accustom to their flutter.  During the frigid nights they actually freeze to the top of my tent so hearing them in the middle of the night was what finally really woke me.  But the flags weren’t flying in their usual direction but 180 degrees due north and this wasn’t a light flutter but a battering northerly wind that rocked the tent walls and caused the tent floor to billow.  We were due to awaken at 3 am. and begin our climb through the ice fall at 4.  Due to the incredible hazard and ever changing conditions it is best to be out of the ice before the full on sun hits it.  But with the new wind direction I knew things would be different.  I could hear plenty of falling rock and cracking ice.  We had been warned that monsoon season was beginning around June 1 but expected earlier this season.  There had been no snow the past season and we had been clobbered by a three day storm while down in Pengbouche – now with the new wind direction signaled the changes due to come.

We accessed the winds at 4 and although strong many teams were now heading up so we opted to proceed with our summit attempt.  In the early morning light Brooke, Dawa Tenzing and I began to climb.  I felt great at camp, strong and comfortable in my gear, properly dressed for the conditions and ready.  But then as we headed higher I noticed something “funny”.  My right arm felt like a dead weight and all too soon my left leg refused to cooperate, it too felt weighted and heavy.  Still I figured I just needed to warm up – get my breathing at 18,000 feet in sync and after my usual half hour warm-up I would settle down.  Plus this was the beginning of our summit push rotation so just like the gun going off at the marathon, nerves certainly come into play.  But I didn’t settle down and now my legs felt heavy to lift and disjointed at the hips.  The ice falls are incredibly dangerous-speed and precise footing a must and here I am feeling clumsy and weak.  I kept trying to figure this out and finally put my pole away and concentrated on my balance.  My fists were tightly clenched as I kept trying to force myself mentally to something, someplace else – anything but this feeling of loss of bodily control.  But I was slowing down – so slow and leaden it wasn’t my decision much longer. Brooke asked if I was okay. I asked that we climb a little higher.  A section of the ice above us broke off and with a rush of noise and wind, ice and snow showered down onto us.  When I turned Brooke was covering her head and I was grasping Dawa’a hand.  We regained our footing and continued higher.  Guess that ice fall was the answer I needed – I was moving too slowly through this treacherous area and in my stubbornness I was putting two other lives at risk.  The Sherpa are very wary of entering the ice falls preferring to limit their exposure-as we have been warned it is “Russian Roulette”.   Many will arrive at base camp and decide the odds are too high and not even attempt the mountain.  I knew all this but since climbing this was my fifth venture through.  I also now knew that not ten days earlier a Sherpa had been killed and is still missing somewhere in the vast expanse of ice.  This was now all playing in my head and my eventual decision to turn back.  I also knew we had only 4 perhaps 5 days to summit before the predicted bad weather arrived – a very small ‘window’ of opportunity and I was now not strong enough to be in a postion high enough on the mountain to make a summit bid.  There is mush strategizing that comes into play on Everest – if a day late or a camp too low will greatly effect the outcome…..

Today as I complete this blog it is now May 24.  Word from the mountain is that the number of summits this year were far less and that the impending weather did indeed arrive.  The winds are high and conditions are deteriorating.  Most of the climbers are now safely down and the mountain will officially ‘close’ within the next few days.  My utmost awe and congratulations to those who did summit – I now know what it takes and how incredibly difficult it is to stick with it for months in such harsh conditions.  You are indeed rock stars!!! This is a mounatain like no other and reaching the top will forever change your lives.

I still second guess my decsion to turn back from my summit attempt yet I have promised so many that I would turn when I felt the risk was too high.  Still I don’t come away with defeat but even richer as my foundation to educate the children of Sherpa killed in climbing falls and to send potential climbing Sherpa to the Khumbu climbing school has now taken hold.  I have much work ahead as I link the children of the Donald Mckay School with the Khumbu Valley through education and the understanding of challenge – challenges we all face everyday. 

For those of us living with MS, as I have said for eleven years, the summit is not important, we all have our mountain – it is what we choose to do with it that is our challenge!   So rememeber…”Come climb with me!”

Thank you to Teva for this incredible opportunity to continue to encourage all of us with MS to climb their own mountain – and to Everest I think I will see you again in the future.

With love and appreciation to the thousands who have visited my web sight and cheered me on…

Climb On!


30 Responses to “Out of Gas Out of Time”

  1. 1 Joyce May 24, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    When you were first diagnosed with MS in 1998 your mission was to show the world that it was possible to push “just a little bit more”. All those years ago you started running marathons, biking long distances, doing motivational speaking, educating school children, and summiting mountains. You paved the way for others, especially those with MS, to strive to climb their own mountains. Because you are such an inspiration, others are following your lead. You are the true visionary!

  2. 2 lisa May 24, 2009 at 3:05 pm


    I know how hard of a decision this was to make. Just know that we are all so proud of you. We can not wait to see you and hear all the stories.

    much love


  3. 3 Mike May 24, 2009 at 3:36 pm


    It is sometimes difficult to make the right decision when you have put so much of your energy into a special project. I do believe that you made a wise and smart choice for all parties involved. I can’t wait to listen to your adventures from this climb.

    You are an inspiration to many of us. Follow your dreams.


  4. 4 Carol May 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm


    You have absolutely done the right thing. The most difficult part of this for you, I am sure, is the decision to leave.

    Remember you are an inspiration to so many people who, as you say, have their own mountains to climb.

    Yes, we do all have own mountains to climb. And because of what you have done, someone else will find the strength to go on and climb their own mountain – one step at a time.

    With much admiration and love,


  5. 5 Priscilla May 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm


    Common sense is the most important component of courage. Because of your tough decision you will go forth to climb another day.

    Come on home to your many friends who love you and admire you.


  6. 6 Sheryl May 24, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    blah, blah, blah…Jalapeno’s Friday night (or maybe we should try the Cruiseport), be there or be square!!! P.S. If Lisa can’t get you at the airport, I probably can. Can’t wait to see you, it was getting to be too much about Beth and Pixie!
    Sheryl ;D

  7. 7 Charlotte May 24, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    5 deaths this season on the mountain puts matters in perspective. Just a few days ago, a young German climber, only 29,summitted from the North Side (without oxygen) and died on the descent. 300+ climbers have succeeded – and lived – to climb the highest mountain on earth while there were approx. 1500 folks who hoped to do so. The mountain was unusually crowded, adding to the multiple dangers involved. Wendy, you know that the hardest and smartest move to make is to recognize it’s time to turn around. You’ve done so in Alaska as I’ve done in Nepal and the Alps. It’s a heart rending decision and one that is not taken lightly. We hurt and shed a few tears and then dust ourselves off and look to the future. As you say, climbing is not about the summit, it is about the challenge, the effort, the beauty, and asking your body to go beyond its limits. In your case this is especially true and amazing. The mountain will wait; your family and friends await to help you celebrate! Hugs, Charlotte, sister mountaineer and friend. 🙂

  8. 8 lisa May 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm


    Enough with the dying people. We are all aware of the risks and the dangers. This is a place to leave an encouraging word for Wendy.

    • 9 Maida Broudo May 24, 2009 at 11:11 pm

      Well well sweet Gwendolyn!

      All I know is this! I miss you!

      I am proud of you! And like Sherly says….just come home….

      I can pick you up on Wednesday on my way home from work!!!!!! Piece of cake!!!!!! I’ll check in with Lisa….

      Way to go girl!!!!!!


      Your girlfriend,

  9. 10 Wayne May 25, 2009 at 2:30 am


    You are a true inspiration to all of us with MS! You’ve faced Everest with a fierce determination and courage. We are very proud of you and look forward to your safe return home.

  10. 11 Ray May 25, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Well done! You did your best under the circumstances. Bless your strength & determination.

  11. 12 alli nelson May 25, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Thankyou Wendy, I saw you in Vero Beach FL I enjoyed every minute of you. You are definately an inspiration and made everyone in that room feel so good, I am privalidged to have met you and I am so happy you are home and safe! good job Wendy, you are amazing. Alli Sebastian Florida

  12. 13 Della May 25, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    After some R&R at home, seems like a trip to Colorado should be in your future. We all can’t wait to see you and hear all about your adventures first hand.
    I signed up for NY marathon lottery yesterday. Is that still in your future too?
    Safe travels home!!!
    You are still, and always will be my hero!


  13. 14 barry king neighbor May 25, 2009 at 3:06 pm


  14. 15 Jen May 25, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Dear WenWen,
    You and I have had many a conversation about trusting our instincts; I am glad you did and I am so proud of you. I am in Portland, OR, for a little Lesea family reunion and when I talk about you to my family, they are so impressed (my uncle has MS) and they have said several times over the weekend what an inspiration you are to them. Your work and mission reaches far more people than you’ll ever know, and THAT is what matters.
    Miss you, can’t wait to see you!
    Love, Trainer Jen

  15. 16 bobtheisen May 26, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Hi Wendy

    I am glad you had Brooke & the sherpa to see you were having issues. As you know, I am like you when it comes to doing something….we can always do it no matter what. They even have “Bob Rules” at the farm after my little accident in October…LOL
    Wendy, you made the right decision. You have done something great & will continue to inspire people to reach their own summits!!!
    I am going to be in Denver June18-21 at the Teva forum
    Take Care, Bob

  16. 17 Heather May 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Oh, Wendy –

    That you are safe is all that matters!

    Can’t wait to see you again. You are my hero.


  17. 18 Dave A. May 26, 2009 at 3:03 pm


    This had to be a very tough decision for you but it certainly made sense. You are still and always an inspiration to those of us living with MS. You have inspired us to keep trying and that’s what matters.

    Best wishes for safe travels home.


  18. 19 Craig John May 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    A courageous and selfless decision you made…it is a very difficult and dangerous mountain as you know. Not the walk up many make it out to be. Glad you are safe. CJ

  19. 20 CATHYSULLIVAN May 27, 2009 at 12:11 am

    Bravo my friend,you will always inspire me to move in new directions,both in my career, which was the best advice yet. my training,and personal life. See you when you get home. There is so much to catch up on,
    Cathy S.

  20. 21 Peter D May 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Cheers to you Wendy,

    As one of your fellow MS’ers, I can’t tell how much your efforts and stories inspire me. When the fatigue hits, sometimes a break is required, other times a deep breath and a mental kick in the pants does the trick. I think of the effort that it must take to even begin the final ascent like you have, and it makes me want to push all the harder in all aspects of life. Life is short, and there is so much to do!

    Have a good trip home, and thanks for the inspiration!


  21. 22 Penny May 27, 2009 at 10:31 pm


    I enjoyed reading your thoughts; they were aptly relevant, insightful and illustrative of the challenge Wendy faced.


    I’m writing a novel; it’s a love story; the heroinet has to find herself again after losing her ability to see herself through the reflection in her lover’s eyes. Metaphorically, my heroine needs a mountain she can climb that is as high as her pain is deep, and following your story has been sort of a “coming home” to my own, life-long fascination with Everest. I hadn’t planned on giving the character MS (though the story has biographical components, all fiction does) but now I’ve had a thought. I can see her clinging to the side of Everest in the opening shot (I’m writing the movie script first) mulling over the deep gouge in her psyche that drove her to such an extreme, contemplating what continuing the climb to the top means to her future. (See “Memoirs of a Geisha” for the tone.) Of course, the story itself unfolds in flash backs from there, and ends with the final outcome of her climb. I think the decision to not continue (and the resolution of that decision actually being the better choice as a character-building exercise – proof itself that she is “healed”) is the better (stronger) ending. See, you never cease to inspire!

    I realize this line of thought will involve negotiations with your attorney’s for some % of story rights, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Bear in mind, it will be FICTION. I’m a wimp; the chances of MY ever actually being on Everest is slim to none.

    (Lisa, funny how the ONLY words written here that are NOT “encouraging words to Wendy” were yours, not Charlotte’s. I hope your comment was some inside joke, said in jest.)

  22. 24 Wendy Drake May 28, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Wen,
    I am very proud of you and sending all kinds of love and encouragement your way.

    All the best,

  23. 25 Wendy Drake May 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    P.S. I forgot to mention that I sent your video link to my Tuesday running pal, Eva. She said to tell you it made her emotional and was very inspired.

  24. 26 john k moore May 30, 2009 at 2:38 am


    From A Knife’s Edge here in Colorado to the ice falls of Everest, you have traveled more paths in more dimensions in a five year span than most do in a lifetime.
    You have opened more doors–for thousands at least–than you could ever imagine. You accept setbacks and successes with equal grace; your quest has never been about ‘Wendy.’ Rather, it’s been all about your cause. Read your own posting above, the line that reads, “…even richer….” That’s the real Wendy. That’s who you are. And always have been.
    What you really don’t understand–but you will some day–is that you really did summit, Wendy. In deed and in spirit. Think back to the ‘Letters’–that you took to Denali– and I think you’ll understand.
    I congratulate you and wish you the best.
    Phoebe says hi.
    : ) john k moore

  25. 27 Beth May 31, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Congratulations Wendy – you got a lot further than any of us could ever hope to – and you made a very difficult decision, but absolutely the right one. That mountain isn’t going anywhere, and I think you were right in saying that you will be seeing it again in the future. There are a lot of us out here who are very proud of what you have done, and continue to do to fight MS and be our voice. THANK YOU!!!

  26. 28 ALAN WINSTON June 1, 2009 at 4:01 am

    Wendy that mountain is not going anywhere. I know that some day you will get to the top of it. All of us in The Friends of Hope in Sarasota Florida think you are great. Come and join us at the beach with 90 degree temp and 98 % humidity, it is great for MS. (Well maybe not for the patients but I keeps the doctors real busy). Take good care of yourself and come home safely.

  27. 29 Bob Capone June 1, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Wendy…… Inspiring to have you as a friend and thank you for letting us climb with you!! Glad your safe and in good health, look forward to seeing that smiling face on Thursday morning soon. Be proud, be strong, continue to lead and we will certainly follow you !!! Safe journey home!
    Bob Capone

  28. 30 Daren Williams October 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Not sure if you’ll remember me. We met several years ago when I was with FH. Thought of you recently and decided to look you up. Was excited when I found your blog but sorry to hear that you weren’t able to summit Everest this year. I will be following to see how things turn out in 2010. Stay safe. Stay strong! Daren

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May 2009
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About Wendy Booker

In June of 1998, this 55 year old mother of three was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS after experiencing balance problems, blurred vision and numbness on her left side. When first diagnosed, Wendy was devastated. But it took very little time for her to transform anguish into inspiration. She immediately turned her hobby of casual running into a continuous pursuit and has now completed nine marathons.

Mountain climbing became the next conquest. Wendy learned about a team of mountain climbers with Multiple Sclerosis who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing, Wendy attempted the summit again in 2004 on her own and she succeeded!

The feeling of accomplishment she experienced propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. Just five years later, Wendy Booker has successfully reached the top of six of The Seven Summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, still awaits for 2010.


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