Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, May 4, 1999

Courtesy of Tom Loomis
Tom Loomis near the Rongbuk Monastery
in Tibet with Everest behind.

The faces of Everest

By Stephanie Kendrick
Assistant Features Editor


Everest has two faces and both are stunning, according to the Hawaii residents who have seen them.

Tom Loomis, a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice in Honolulu 10 years, visited Everest in June1995 when he was 46.

"We went to Tibet, which is a really, really wild experience," said Loomis. "It's a different world."

The north face of Everest, in Tibet, gets less traffic than the south. It is hard to get into the country, he said.

Loomis and his traveling partners spent four days taking day hikes and acclimating at Tibet's Rongbuk Monastery at 16,000 feet.

"You get there and you just about keel over" because of the altitude, he said.

They climbed for six days to reach Camp Three at 21,000 feet.

"Each of those six days was about the most grueling I could imagine," said Loomis.

They had to contend with dramatic temperature shifts, exhaustion and the lack of a trail.

"All night you could hear rocks the size of buses falling down the mountain," he said. "You can't do anything. You just turn your fate over to God."

At 21,000 feet, I was hallucinating. I can say that with authority because I am a psychologist. I looked down and thought I was walking on water. There's no water there, everything is frozen," he said.

"My partner Monte was crying.

"We were done in," said Loomis. And they turned back.

"It was so vastly enormous it was hard to imagine anyone ever being there," he said.

Frank Kingery, an independent consulting engineer, was also impressed with the vastness of Everest.

"The whole scale of things around you is just bigger the life, bigger that anything you can imagine," he said.

Kingery went to the south face of Everest, on the Nepalese side, in fall 1970 with a geological expedition from San Diego State University.

They were testing the theory that the Himalayas had been pushed up by plate tectonics.

Geological material and fossils collected by the team in six weeks on the mountain produced ample evidence to support the theory.

Kingery and his fellow scientists spent a week at Base Camp at 17,500 and hiked to 20,000.

The camp is at the foot of the volatile Khumbu ice fall.

"Things are just kind of moving around while you're sitting there," said Kingery. "It just took your breath away."

"It was a life changing experience," he added.

On the evenings of May 14 and 15, The Polynesian Cultural Center will host gala fund-raisers that will include screenings of the IMAX film "Everest," dinner and other entertainment.

PCC is offering pairs of tickets for either evening to Hawaii adventurers who can document visits to 17,000 feet or higher on Mount Everest. Call Peter Rosegg at 539-5720.

Anyone else who would like tickets to the premiere can call 1 (877) PCC-1411. Cost is $65 and proceeds benefit Bishop Museum and the Polynesian Cultural Center Foundation.

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