Not many people in coastal Georgia can claim that they have scaled the world’s highest and most dangerous mountain. However, one Georgia Southern alumnus showed his True Blue spirit where few have ever traveled.
Last November, Eric Landon (’99, ’00) left his cell phone at home, hopped on a plane from Jacksonville, Fla., and traveled by himself to the Himalayas to tackle Mount Everest on the Nepal-China border. Rising 29,029 above sea level, Landon’s ambition was to trek to base camp at 17,500 feet, but he surpassed that goal by traveling one day farther to a summit called Kalapathar, at 18,300 feet.
Landon’s method to planning such a monumental task required discipline and careful attention to detail, much like his job as a county planner in Brunswick, Ga. In preparation for the physically demanding climb, his six-month training regimen included two hours of weightlifting or yoga every day after work. “It took a long time to prepare to travel to rural Asia, not only to get into shape, but it required a lot of vaccinations. Since you’re traveling hundreds of miles from nowhere, you need to get shots for everything possible, because if something goes wrong there is no place to go for help,” he said.
A traditional Himalayan Mountain guide, called a Sherpa, led Landon and a group of 11 other hikers on the 25-day trek followed by yaks carrying their heavy gear. Gone were the comforts of home such as showers, toilets and food (the hikers’ daily diets consisted of peanut butter, ramen noodles, protein bars and potatoes). Even with Landon’s rigorous physical training, he said a hiker can’t train for the high elevation during the climb. “The higher you go, you start to break down. It is hard to catch your breath, eat and digest food, and it’s also difficult to sleep,” he added, saying that every few days the group would have to stay at camp to acclimate to the altitude changes. Despite these hardships, the group was surrounded by unbelievable landscape. “Mountain peaks five and six miles high are all around you . . . an incredible feeling,” Landon said.
Landon returned home from Mount Everest with a great sense of accomplishment. “After experiencing no phone, no family and no friends other than the people you meet along the way, you have the feeling that you can be dropped into any situation and you will find a way for it to work out,” he said. Although Landon can’t rule out a return to Mount Everest, he admitted that it would take some persuasive convincing to make that happen. “Your body takes such punishment, it’s hard to imagine wanting to go back. I think the next trip will be someplace warm, oxygen rich and with a more hospitable climate. Australia sounds nice!”