By Scarlett M. Barger
Every professional makes decisions in his or her workplace, but few compare to the decisions a mountaineer makes, said BYU graduate student Stacy Taniguchi.
“You’re making life and death decisions almost everyday,” he said.
Taniguchi, 48, earning a doctorate degree in educational leadership, from Hawaii, was a guide for 15 years on Mt. McKinley and recently attempted to climb Mt. Everest last March.
Stacy said he seized the opportunity when a former client from Mt. McKinley invited him to be his guide and offered to pay for his expenses.
Stacy said his client, Al Hanna, was on a quest to climb the seven summits, and had brought Stacy with him for four of the summits before Everest.
The term “seven summits” represents each of the highest peaks on each continent and range from highest to lowest: Everest (29,028 ft.), Aconcagua (22,834), McKinley (20,320), Kilimanjaro (19,340), Elbrus (18,510), Vinson Massif (16,066), and Kosciusko (7,316), according to an informational Web site .
Stacy’s wife, LuAnn, said she has sometimes worried about her husband climbing, but felt good about his opportunity to climb Everest.
“She made a sacrifice for me to go,” Stacy said.
He said he felt confident he could make the trek until he dislocated his left knee. Only three of the six climbers in Stacy’s group made it to the top.
The challenge with Everest is not only the height but also the altitude. Because of the altitude, climbers cannot take time to rest on the way up. Instead, they have to keep climbing as high as they can and then come down again, until they have built up their strength enough to make it all the way up, Stacy said.
Stacy said he climbed to 22,000 feet when he had to come back down. It was on the way back to base camp that he dislocated his knee.
He said he was disappointed, but still felt it was a thrill to climb the mountain. He said Everest was totally unlike any mountain he had ever climbed before. It’s easy for climbers to get discouraged if they don’t think of the mountain in stages, he said.
“I was intimidated the whole time,” he said.
If he had the opportunity to climb Everest again, he would focus more, he said, since every choice a climber makes, even if seemingly minor, can affect his or her ability to reach the top.
LuAnn said that although it is difficult for her not to worry, she has grown to trust her husband’s judgement.
“I have always felt like he has been smart about his climbing,” she said.
Stacy said he is not sure what lies ahead in his climbing. He said he can wear a brace when he hikes, but he can’t do anything too strenuous.
Since he is in school right now, next summer would be the earliest time to have surgery. After that, his rehabilitation will probably take three to six months.