Satisfying a lifelong aspiration, Ray Stevens travels to Nepal to begin his ascent of Mount Everest and increase awareness about exceptional conditions. [6 min read]
As a boy scout growing up in Maine, Ray Stevens nurtured two cherished desires: to run across the Sahara Desert and to climb Mount Everest.
Stevens, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Chemistry at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, realized his to start with objective 10 decades back when he concluded the legendary Marathon des Sables — a 156-mile, 6-working day ultramarathon throughout the scorching sands of the Sahara that induced him to get rid of his toenails. Now 57, Stevens, director of the Bridge Institute at the USC Michelson Middle for Convergent Bioscience, is making ready to fulfill his 2nd desire by conquering Everest — practically precisely just one calendar year immediately after his first designs have been set on keep by the arrival of COVID-19.
Ray Stevens runs the 2011 Marathon des Sables in southern Morocco. (Image: Courtesy of Ray Stevens.)
Stevens ran the Marathon des Sables to increase awareness about the uncommon metabolic disease phenylketonuria (PKU). He ultimately researched and made a new drug to treat PKU.
His determination in climbing Everest is also to raise awareness for scarce illnesses — an problem that remains near to his coronary heart. Not only has Stevens’ scientific career been mostly targeted on comprehension and managing scarce illnesses, his daughter, Sophia, was diagnosed with Kawasaki sickness when she was four yrs old.
“Many of these health conditions go undiagnosed, even by numerous properly trained doctors. People today have symptoms but normally really do not know the exact problem,” he states. “I was now doing work on exceptional conditions, but I’d under no circumstances read of this 1. With Kawasaki disease, the immune procedure decides that the circulatory procedure is foreign, so it attacks it. Luckily, Jane Burns at the College of California, San Diego was doing a clinical trial with an experimental drug. It saved my daughter’s life.”
This encounter spurred Stevens to dedicate to elevating recognition for uncommon illnesses by teaming up with the Countrywide Business of Uncommon Issues.
“Rare disorders are one thing that persons don’t normally imagine of. It is typically cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or today Covid-19. But uncommon diseases impact people today in the very same way and we need to be informed of them,” Stevens says.
Stevens is also climbing to increase recognition of the Pulmonary Hypertension Association.
Climbing Everest, he states, is equivalent to obtaining pulmonary hypertension.
“As you climb, your lungs can’t get adequate oxygen. The coronary heart is really taxed, and so climbing Everest is the equal to having that ailment.”
A family members affair — but not this time
Stevens still left Los Angeles for Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 31. He will then fly to the little airport of Lukla in northeastern Nepal. From there it will choose 9 days to hike to Everest Foundation Camp at 17,500 feet.
“The full excursion will consider about two months and most of that time is used acclimatizing to the pretty large altitude,” Stevens claims.
For the duration of April and Could, he will do “rotations” — climbing progressively more up Everest, sleeping there and then returning to foundation camp. After acclimatized to the altitude, the ultimate force to the summit usually takes about a week.
To prepare, Stevens has been frequently climbing Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, found just a few several hours northeast of L.A.
“I slumber up there, then come down the subsequent early morning,” he states. “What’s amazing in wintertime is that generally there is no one else up there, so I typically get the full mountain to myself.”
On his most the latest ascent, he encountered temperatures of 5 levels Fahrenheit and 6 inches of fresh snowfall overnight. Nonetheless, that pales in comparison to what Stevens will confront at the summit of Everest, wherever envisioned temperatures are minus 40.
Ray Stevens climbed Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro with his household (from remaining) Nikolai Stevens, Aleksandr Stevens, Sophia Stevens, Ray Stevens and Vivian Urena-Stevens. (Image: Courtesy of Ray Stevens.)
For the earlier 5 several years, Stevens has been steadily doing work toward his goal of climbing the seven optimum peaks on the 7 different continents. Accompanied by his two sons, the elder of whom, Nikolai Stevens, is a senior majoring in psychology at USC Dornsife, Ray Stevens has climbed Europe’s greatest peak, Mount Elbrus, amongst Russia and Ga Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua, the best mountain in South America and Vinson Massif, the greatest mountain in Antarctica. To climb Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the earth, the trio had been joined by Stevens’ wife, Vivian, and daughter.
This time, having said that, Stevens is on his individual.
“After Antarctica, exactly where we had to slumber outside the house for a thirty day period, my sons decided that was adequate,” Stevens claims. “I’m going to miss out on them really substantially for the reason that almost everything that I’ve climbed has been with them, but my wife is really happy that the boys are not heading.”
“Just combat as a result of it”
Stevens states the mental preparation desired to climb Everest started with running ultramarathons.
Requested about how he promotions with suffering and exhaustion, Stevens says, “You just struggle as a result of it.
“When I was operating throughout the Sahara Desert, persons ended up dropping the skin on the soles of their feet for the reason that we were operating in deep sand at temperatures above 120 levels Fahrenheit. I dropped all of my toenails, and it wasn’t a incredibly rather sight and it was not at ease, but you just hold heading.”
Stevens suggests he is drawn to serious sports activities in typical and mountain climbing in distinct since of the solitude and inspiration he finds in the natural beauty of the globe around him.
“It’s definitely due to the fact I delight in the journey so much. The experience of it. It’s one thing where by you find internal peace.”
Stevens claims he feels completely ready for the ascent. Without a doubt, immediately after a long time of education, he was prepared to climb Everest past year. His baggage were being virtually packed and stacked by the entrance door, when his dreams were being temporarily thwarted by COVID-19. Now vacation to Nepal has opened up and he has gained the vaccine, Stevens is equipped to vacation. Even so, he is below no illusions about what is facing him.
“Everybody claims it’s incredibly challenging to do, and even though there’s a great deal of things in the media indicating that it is easier, it is not simpler. But it is safer simply because there are improved weather prediction tools readily available and improved products to test to steer clear of frostbite when the temperatures fall under minus 40.”
Asked what are the most important problems he expects to deal with on the climb, Stevens suggests his very first problem will be remaining wholesome in a distant space at superior altitude. 2nd is the first phase of the climb from foundation camp to Camp A single as a result of the dangerous Khumbu Icefall. Third are the challenges posed by the sheer variety of people on the mountain. In a common calendar year, the temperature window where a person can summit lasts seven to 10 days, but in a undesirable 12 months it can be only a few days and anyone is striving to summit at the very same time.
Stevens’ enjoyment about the climb is palpable.
“When I was to start with recruited to USC, I bear in mind talking with then-Provost Elizabeth Garrett. She claimed, ‘Ray, are you significantly thinking of climbing Everest?’ And I said, ‘I’m energized to occur to USC, but at some level I will will need to acquire some time off simply because I have seriously been wanting to climb Mount Everest my full lifetime.’’
Now, Stevens is lastly finding the probability to make his aspiration occur correct — and get the term out about uncommon disorders.
“For folks who have any condition, such as the rare ones, existence is just one step at a time, just like climbing a mountain,” Stevens suggests. “And no issue what mountain you climb, the information is normally the identical: One particular step at a time.”
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