Two years ago, UMW junior Dudley “Art” Franzen flipped a coin. Tails – he and his climbing partner, Scott Campbell, would head to the highest mountain in Argentina; heads – they would tackle the world’s highest peak.
He was going to the Himalayas.
Franzen , a 47-year-old historic preservation major originally from Winnie, Texas, felt up to the challenge. After all, he already had climbed some of the most daunting mountains in the world, including Mount Kilimanjaro.
He researched the climate and terrain and trained for the grueling Mount Everest climb both in gyms and in mountains of Fredericksburg and Colorado.
Ascent to the 29,000-foot-high summit can take several months and thousands of dollars, so Franzen set his sights on Mount Everest Base Camp, still a formidable 17,598 feet. After he finishes school, he plans to attempt the summit.
After two years of preparation, Franzen and Campbell arrived in Nepal last spring and started the climb with a team of three sherpas, a guide and two yaks.
“There are 50 things that can go wrong,” Franzen said, “and only one thing that can go right – being successful and getting back down.”
Amid the rocky terrain, strong wind gusts and stinging sand, he concentrated on staying healthy and alert.
He faced terrifying ledges that dropped thousands of feet coupled with hurricane-force winds – enough to keep him more focused on standing upright than taking photos. At night, temperatures plummeted to 25 degrees below zero.
Despite the challenges, Franzen found the experience rewarding.
“A lot of people counted on me and believed in me,” he said. “I knew I could do it. Once you get into the middle of climb, if you decide you are going to quit, you still have to climb out. You might as well keep going.”
After 21 days in the Himalayas, Franzen and the team reached Mount Everest Base Camp on May 16.
As an Eagle Scout, he took photos at the site of a Boy Scout flag from Texas and a Girl Scout flag from Fredericksburg. He returned the flags after the trip so the scouts could have flags that had been to Mount Everest and back.
Now back at Mary Washington, Franzen said seeing the poverty-stricken society of Nepal made him appreciate the importance of education. “I feel more focused on my studies,” he said.
Not one to slow down, he’s considering a trip with Campbell to the Andes in Argentina or to the rugged terrain of Antarctica. Either way, he is on to his next adventure.
He echoed a quote from Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest:
“If you are not living life on the edge, you are taking up too much space.”