KINGWOOD, W.Va. — A member of the West Virginia National Guard from Preston County is home after clicking another item off his bucket list. However, a climb to the Mount Everest base camp didn’t satisfy 1st Sgt. David Casteel, it actually made him hungry for more.
“That’s a place I’ve always wanted to go,” Casteel explained in a recent visit on MetroNews “Talkline.” “I’ve always read about it, saw every documentary and movie and I had an opportunity to do it this year. I talked to my wife and she looked at me and said, ‘Just go do it.'”
Although the allure of Everest for many is the summit at 27,000 feet, Casteel trekked only to the base camp, which sits at 17,600 feet in the Himalayan Mountains. After landing in the country, Casteel explained the hike just to the base camp was a nine-day affair. There were stops along the way to allow the body to acclimate to the conditions. Although he had no problem with the altitude, Casteel said he did develop a respiratory infection which isn’t uncommon.
“They flat out tell you, everyone will suffer from something,” he explained. “It started to get in your head a little because you’re starting to see people coming back down. We saw people evacuated constantly.”
Casteel’s guide even offered toward the end of the trip he thought he might have to evacuate him, but he persevered and pushed through to make it to the desolate base camp.
“Once I got to base camp, I sat down on a boulder and just took in everything,” he said. “I was so exhausted and so tired.”
Those pushing toward the summit do so during a very narrow window during the month of May. According to Casteel the base camp is deserted for the most part in any other time of the year.
“We walked around and looked at the ice fall and things like that,” he said. “The point we were on the base camp is the highest point and if you start going out on the ice fall, you have to climb.”
Casteel noted as he started the trip back down the mountain–his health improved rapidly and by the end he felt normal.
With the item checked off the bucket list, he’s exhilarated and inspired.
“It was everything I thought it would be and more to the point now I want to go back and go to camps 1 or 2,” he explained. “Would I like to Summit? Sure, but I know my limitations.”