Former Red Deerian makes Canadian history

Climber says photos don’t do Mount Everest justice

Former Red Deer city councillor and MLA John Oldring became one of the oldest Canadians to summit Mount Everest on May 25.

Born in Lacombe, Oldring is the oldest Canadian-born climber to make it to the top of the legendary mountain.

“We probably had one of the best days of the year to summit on,” said Oldring, 64, who could see the curvature of the earth through clear, blue skies from the world’s highest mountain top.

His team had originally planned to reach the peak on May 26, which turned out to be a cloudy day for other climbers.

“They didn’t have any visibility. It was flat. They couldn’t stand on the top of Everest and see the other mountains.”

It was Oldring’s second Everest attempt. In 2015 his team was climbing the treacherous Khumbu Icefall on the Nepali slopes of Mount Everest when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and left them in a total whiteout.

The eight-member team survived, but down at base camp at least 22 people died and several were injured.

Despite an earthquake that left other climbers with post traumatic stress, Oldring, of Calgary, didn’t hesitate to try again.

“I hadn’t reached the summit yet. The job wasn’t done,” said Oldring who was a Red Deer councillor from 1974 to 1986 before serving as MLA for Red Deer South from 1986 to 1993.

He said about seven people died this year on Everest. His team saw four bodies brought down the mountain, and passed another body still in the snow.

“For me, I’d stop and say a quick prayer for them and their families. Then I’d say a quick prayer for me and keep on going.

“I would definitely discourage anybody with a young family from going anywhere near these big mountains. I think you have a bigger obligation –that’s only my opinion.”

His team reached the summit at 8:15 a.m. after a nine-hour climb from Camp Four, then spent about 15 minutes on top of the world.

“It was fabulous. Everest is so big. You just can’t appreciate the scale at all. It’s truly amazing.”

But they also knew the peak was a death zone, he said.

“We had no urgency time-wise. We climbed so quickly. But on the other hand you always have to remind yourself a successful climb is getting down the mountain, not just getting up it. So you don’t spend a lot of time up there.”

It wasn’t until he came down that he found out he was among the oldest Canadians to summit Everest.

“Any climb that I’ve been on, I always known I’ll be oldest. So my theory is I make sure I always train the hardest, train the smartest and climb as smart and efficiently as I can. I don’t want to be the person who holds the team back and I never have been.

“In fact I was leading at times and they stopped letting me lead because I had the habit of disappearing when I was out front. I’d be having a great time and be long gone Charlie,” he said with a laugh.

Khumbu Icefall may be the most dangerous part of the climb where climbers are advised to get through as quick as possible, but Oldring said he liked the challenges it presented.

“The Khumba Icefall for me is just spectacular. You just can’t believe how massive this ice is that your working your way through. So I love the challenge of some of the crevasses that we went over. I love the challenge of some of the ladders we went up. I love the challenge of the foot work you would have to do coming off some of those ladders where you’re front-pointing and continuing up the mountain.”

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

 

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