For a few brief moments this spring, a little piece of Trail was on top of the world.
It was May 25, and a three-man crew was taking its final steps to the summit of Mount Everest.
Greg Barber stopped and gazed east, at the rising sun.
“It looked like someone had taken a red felt pen and highlighted the mountain peaks,” he says.
“And from the southern horizon we were looking down on a lighting storm,” he recalls. “It was like fireworks going off. We just stood there for 10 or 12 minutes, looking between the lightning and the sunrise. Then we made our way to the summit and we were only ones there. We had the whole summit to ourselves.”
At the peak of the world’s tallest mountain, Barber took off his helmet and oxygen mask. Then, eight-and-a-half kilometres above sea level — he put on his Trail Smoke Eaters baseball cap.
“I took a selfie with it, and texted the photo to my buddy who had asked for it,” he says.
Summitting Everest is another highlight in Barber’s mountain climbing career, one that has taken him to the highest mountains on six of seven continents.
“It was just an absolutely amazing adventure,” he said from his home in Surrey. “I’ve been climbing for a number of years now, working up to this.”
All the hype and publicity the Everest climb gets is deserved, says Barber. But he didn’t have a lot of time to relax after reaching the top of the world.
From the summit his party moved down the mountain quickly. They were in Kathmandu in a day, and back in the Lower Mainland 24 hours after that.
“It was straight back to work — I work at a steel foundry in Surrey,” he says. “I had to rush home, I had meetings I had to attend at the office.”
“I got back to work on the 29th.”
Barber has had a month to re-adjust to normal western life, after spending more than two months tenting on the side of the tallest mountain on the planet. While he’s spending time reconnecting with friends and family, he says there’s still plenty of things he has to get used to again.
“I think the biggest thing, whenever we get off the higher mountains — when you get to certain elevation there’s no life, no plant life — everything is rock and ice.
“And the biggest difference is the smell in the air… the thickeness of the air, the smells and warmth. That’s the biggest impact when you get off the mountain.”
Barber was fortunate on the trip, suffering no frostbite or problems from lack of oxygen. He credits the guiding company he was with, US-based International Mountain Guides, for taking such excellent care of the people on his tour.
So the inevitable question — why does Barber do it?
“To see if I can,” he says simply. “I don’t have anything to prove, my family is super-supportive. Of course, some of them think I’m nuts for trying, but that goes for all of climbing.
“But it’s about being out in nature. It’s such a grounding experience. It brings me a lot of peace, a lot of purpose.”
Barber’s not resting on his laurels. He has some climbs scheduled for B.C. and Washington this summer, and then he begins planning for the final summit of his seven-continent tour… Carstensz’ Pyramid in Papua, New Guinea, the highest mountain in Oceania.
“It’s a 16,000-foot rock climb,” he says. “That should be fun.”