Kona resident David Dukevares stands in front of the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest. (Dusty Boyd/Special to West Hawaii Today)
David Dukevares traveled from Kona to Nepal to climb a portion of Mount Everest, but the high altitude nearly kept him from reaching the goal.
“The altitude really kicked my butt,” the 25-year-old Kona resident and former Marine said. “It was pretty scary.”
Dukevares developed acute mountain sickness, the result of the decreasing amount of oxygen available in the air. He said his guide, South Kona resident Dusty Boyd, helped him push through the illness to finish the climb.
“I was going to call it off,” Dukevares said. “I wasn’t going to go any farther.”
Boyd said he told Dukevares he had been sick before, too, on a climb. The only way to get through it, other than give up on the climb, is to take the trek one step at a time, Boyd said.
When other climbers have reached that point of illness, “usually at that point, they don’t go,” Boyd said.
But Dukevares, urged on by two fellow military veteran climbers, whom Boyd was also leading on the trip, did.
“I was proud of him for that,” Boyd said. “Every step you take, your body is screaming, ‘Go down.’ It just keeps punishing you until you go down.”
Boyd decided earlier this year to take the small group of veterans — Dukevares, another man who was badly hurt in Iraq and spent 15 months recovering from those injuries and the third, a 43-year-old Marine special forces medic — to Everest. The group traveled there from Sept. 26 to Oct. 13. The plan was to make it to base camp and to the edge of the Khumbu Icefall, a mile-long ascent of the mountain’s flank with 30- to 80-feet-high ice towers. They also climbed to about 18,500 feet up Everest on a very cold day, with a high of about 20 degrees, and winds blowing 30 to 50 mph, Boyd said.
Taking the veterans was unlike working with many of the other Everest climbers Boyd has worked with over the years. Dukevares and the other men followed Boyd’s orders, something so many other people will not do.
“Soldiers are awesome to take,” Boyd said, adding the men dealt with horrible food, low visibility and generally uncomfortable conditions and finished the expedition as they expected to. He said he would like to continue working with veterans.
Dukevares said the altitude caused problems even when he was trying to sleep.
“I would fall asleep and wake up gasping for air,” he said. “It was a little scary.”
The trip, overall, was great, he said.
“I definitely caught the (mountain climbing) bug,” he said. “Next year, I plan on doing Mount Rainier.”
He’d like to go with Boyd to Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain, located in Russia, maybe in a couple of years.
Visiting Nepal also left an impression on him, Dukevares said.
“It was eye opening to see how these people live,” he said. “It makes you appreciate what you have here.”