by- Posted on May 15, 2009
Lori Schneider of Janesville, Wisconsin, is my newest hero. Let me explain.
I’m a peak freak. Everest, that is. I’ll sit up all night with you discussing whether or not legendary British mountaineer George Leigh Mallory and his young climbing partner Andrew Irvine actually reached the highest summit on earth before they vanished into oblivion, or if Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay get the credit (my romantic imagination wants to believe the former but reason leads me to the latter conclusion).
I feel as if I know virtually all the famous Everest landmarks—the Geneva Spur, the Yellow Band, the Hillary Step, the Khumba Icefall, the Balcony—though I’ve never been anywhere near Nepal or Tibet. But I love thinking about it, and I like to hike and climb myself, though definitely not under those extreme circumstances (usually I stick to the Berkshires and this week end I’m headed out to Colorado).
Back to Lori. May is summit month on Everest, just about the only time of year the mountain yields to climbers, and then with the utmost resistance. Odds are you won’t make it to the top; you don’t want to know what the odds are that you might not make it down alive and what extreme altitude does to the human body. Lori is attempting the summit this year. Lori has MS.
She got her diagnosis in 1999, when her body started to go numb and her vision began to fail. Doctors told her to prepare for life in a wheelchair, or worse. Instead, she fought back. Drug therapy helped. But something deep and powerful inside Lori came to life. She climbed Mt. Aconcagua in South America and Denali in Alaska. She ran The Great Wall of China marathon. Now she’s on Everest.
I don’t know Lori. I’d never heard of her until I got an Everest Google alert yesterday. But now I’m thinking about her on the mountain and hoping to follow her in spirit to the summit that has eluded so many other climbers.
There have been many inspiring firsts on the world’s highest mountain. Somehow this one captures my heart. Maybe it’s because Lori was a special education teacher and I had a brother with Downs Syndrome and a sister who taught special ed. Maybe it’s because my favorite cousin, Marcy Lowe, died of MS way too young for anyone so alive to die.
Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.