Previously published in the 2017 Ouachitonian yearbook.
While the rest of the Campus Ministries mission team flew home to the United States, one person stayed behind and flew to Nepal—to one of the most dangerous airports in the world, in fact. He had decided to extend his trip to Asia to take on one of the greatest challenges known to man: climbing Mount Everest.
“I’ve always been into adventuring,” said Austin Sowerbutts, a sophomore missions and entrepreneurship double major from Hot Springs. “When I was really young, I fell in love with mountains. My family went to Colorado, and I loved it.”
Sowerbutts knew he wanted to tackle Everest one day. He had already climbed mountains in Colorado, Mexico and Patagonia. He was already even in practice, preparing for future mountain climbs by walking around Hot Springs with his back pack. The Campus Ministries trip to China afforded the perfect opportunity to achieve this dream.
“I had a month free in Asia and thought, ‘What can I do? Let’s go to the Himalayas,’” Sowerbutts said. “I went for the ‘wow’ factor and because I wanted to make the most of my summer.”
Even the trip from China to Nepal had adventures of its own.
“The journey there was actually really dangerous,” Sowerbutts said. “I had an overnight layover in a city in southern China by myself on my way to Nepal. I had to find my hotel at 2 a.m. with a random guy in a white van who spoke broken English. My hotel room was cancelled.”
He landed in Tenzing-Hillary airport in Lukla, Nepal—right at the base of Everest. Then he began the climb to base camp.
“I went to where the mountain climbers begin their journey, to the base camp,” Sowerbutts said. “It took me eight days to get there from Lukla.”
Although he made the trip alone, he made friends along the way.
“I was able to meet people from Sweden and Germany and Australia at base camp,” Sowerbutts said. “I could play cards with people from, like, five different countries, which was super cool.”
The actual journey up the mountain took a great deal of endurance. No one could make it from point to point at once; they had to rest and work up the strength to go further each day.
“There is less oxygen than there is here,” Sowerbutts said. “I would have to stop every once in a while so I wouldn’t get altitude sickness, which can be very serious.”
After a while, he was able to climb even higher.
“I went past the base camp by a little bit,” Sowerbutts said. “Base camp is at 17,500 feet. I went to 18,500 feet.”
Many people likely picture Everest as a harsh, unforgiving place. However, this was not the case for him.
“The weather was beautiful, especially at some of the lower elevations,” Sowerbutts said. “I was able to hike in shorts and a T-shirt. We had awesome views of all the mountains around us.”
Of course, there were a few exceptions to this.
“It snowed on me, in June,” Sowerbutts said.
He will continue climbing mountains and having adventures, and will perhaps even try Everest again one day.
“It was formative in how I am learning how to deal with people from other cultures and also in sharing my faith,” Sowerbutts said. “It gave me a sense of awe of God’s creation. Standing at the foot of Everest makes that real easy.”
By Morgan Howard
Photo by Andy Henderson
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