Mount Everest Memories and Motivational Speaking

By: Karen Chaney

Richard Fiske, recounting his 1999 journey up Mount Everest, recalls meeting “Cary Grant,” rubbing car oil over his body, and getting tossed like a kite while holding onto a rope. 

Although the adventure happened 27 years ago, the Edgemere resident still finds ways to apply lessons he learned before, during, and after the trip. 

After graduating from Lewis & Clark College in 1957, Fiske started going on annual trips with nine college friends. They rented a sea plane in Canada, played golf in Scotland, and saw penguins in Antarctica. 

During their 1997 ‘What should we do next’ meeting, someone yelled, “Let’s do Mount Everest!” 

 Richard Fiske, 88, has lived at Edgemere Senior Living since 2020. In addition to running his business, Astrea, he enjoys working out daily and being a motivational speaker. Karen Chaney

Just like that, the bar was raised.

“I said OK, but we better get our spouses’ approval,” Fiske said. “Six of my friends had to back out because their wives said they’d leave them.”

Four friends, armed with familial support and loads of determination, started training. They spent weekends climbing mountains – Hood, Shasta, McKinely, Poconos, Baker, and Jackson Holen – and 10 intense days at Marine Corps Base Quantico. 

They arrived in Katmandu in September 1999, then helicoptered to Sherpa Village. 

“I couldn’t pronounce my sherpa’s name, and I asked him to pick an English name,” Fiske said. “He picked the name ‘Cary Grant.’”

Crossing Khumbu Icefall provided an exhilarating intro to the journey.  

“A great big piece of ice, the size of a building, broke off and came tumbling down,” Fiske said. “The sherpas told us to get close to the wall. It went right over the top of us.”

Then weather turned bad. 

“When it gets bad, all you can do is stay in your tent in your mummy sleeping bag and get as warm as you can,” he said. “To stay warm, you rub car oil over your body and your body will retain the heat. You live in it and can’t take a bath.”

While ascending the mountain, another snap of bad weather was heading their way from India. In an effort to miss the brunt of the storm, they decided to repel down. 

“When I jumped off, the winds were around 150 to 160 miles per hour. The wind caught me, and the rope went up in the air like a kite, and I was holding onto the end of it,” he said. “I remember looking down and I could see Burma; a plane went by below me. The guys from the bank said take your legs and cross them, make yourself more aerodynamic … so I did, and it blew me down and in.”

Fiske was 62 when he climbed Mount Everest. He is now 88, owns a business, adheres to a daily workout regimen, and is a motivational speaker. He draws from his mountaintop experiences to help audience members find their personal gusto.

“I know I won’t live forever,” he said. “But I want to say I got maximum value out of being a human.”

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