Triumph of the Human Spirit – Two Visually Challenged Australians make it to Everest Base Camp

As an adventure travel company known for taking up pioneering projects, Explore Himalaya has never shied away from a challenge. So the company took it as a challenge, when it received an enquiry from its Australian agent to organize a trek for a group of five including two visually challenged individuals – Nick Gleeson and Charlie McConnel, to Kala Patthar – Everest Base Camp. However  tough  and risky it was, to take these adventurous duo to EBC, Explore Himalaya decided to do it and did manage to do it. According to Vina, one of the  members, “Explore Himalaya went above and beyond the call of duty for what they should have done. They went way over our expectations!”

It is the spirit of adventure that drives our company and we  surely could not have denied Nick and Charlie the opportunity to experience Everest.Their warm and friendly nature and positive attitude also made it a pleasure for the sherpas to assist them during the trek. Indeed the duo’s  joie de vivre and their indomitable spirit serves as an inspiration for us all.

After their return from EBC, EH met with the five friends to know more about their incredible journey. Though Nick and Charlie achieved an incredible feat, we believe all five members (who are in their mid 50s) deserve our praise for what they have done. Hats off to them because every one of them have achieved a personal landmark!

How the idea to do EBC trek came about?

Vina Accomazzo ( North Carolina, USA): “Nick and I did the New York marathon last November and we enjoyed the time that we had together. However we wondered, when we would get to see one another again. Back in January of this year ,out of the blue, we decided to exchange e-mails on a daily basis, which we did. We decided to go somewhere different and I had been to Nepal in 1983 but that was one of the things I wish I had done. I came as a tourist but I had not gone to Base Camp, I had not done any trekking at all and it was some thing that I always wanted to do. So I sent Nick an email one day and I said how would you like to do Mount Everest and without any hesitation he said ‘yeah’ and then he took it and just started running with it and started making all the phone calls. By week’s end he had Charlie, Rozanne and Brian.They were all on board ,ready to go with us.”

EBC Trek(L-R: Brian, Charlie, Rozanne, Nick & Vina at Everest base Camp)

Their personal experiences during the trek:

Nick“I can carry this too..”- Nick, checking out the porter’s load

Nick Gleeson (Sydney, Australia):

“The most important part of this climb was the enjoyment and of learning about Everest itself – the people when we walked through the villages and the animals, the yaks, dzokpos, and all the other animals that were part of this trek that we had. We saw people washing clothing and carrying things, the porters, the sherpas, it was the whole combination of these aspects that made this trek so important. We hope that this can help other people but most importantly of all, I believe that Charlie and myself are examples of ordinary people given the opportunity to do things that are very special and we hope that we can take this away and help other people in their lives, whether they are sighted or whether they are blind or have low vision. The people can set their own goals in life and decide to enjoy life to the best of their abilities. We saw and met so many incredible people who weren’t blind but had their own challenges and showed enormous determination and I suppose in conclusion it’s the human spirit that is so important, that made this trek so special for me.”

Nick & friends-EBC trekMaking their way to Base Camp, Everest

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Play Testimonial by Nick – Part I” dl=”0″]

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Play Testimonial by Nick – Part II” dl=”0″]

Charlie McConnel (Sydney Australia):”Just to get there, it was like reading a book in Braille, we felt everything on the trail, on the way up and we certainly felt everything on our way down.”

CharlieCharlie, with his sherpa

To visit Everest was a longtime goal and something I thought I would probably never achieve. Put on the back of my list because I thought it was a bit difficult, both in terms of getting up to Base Camp and Kala Pathar as well as convincing someone to take on the challenge to get me there, bearing in mind , I might have the body but I don’t have the eyes. When the opportunity arose, we took a group of people from Australia to come over here. However what I found, I quickly bonded with the guides and particularly to one guide who showed a lot of attention to me and guarded me pretty much all the way from Kathmandu, onto the aircraft, up the Base Camp, up Kala Patthar and all the way back to Kathmandu and for that I was very appreciative.

I think we both got a very wonderful experience. He first got the experience of learning how to explain where my feet might land at any point, bearing in mind there are lots of rocks, crevasses, sharp turns, icy patches and steep drops, which may cause a problem if I was to venture too close to it. We negotiated all the bridges and no falls were taken by me at all or my guide during the whole trek. For me it was a very tactile experience- the air rushing up from the valley, the sound, the smells along the trail of the rivers, the smells along the trail, as you pass through the various villages, the villagers who were hospitable, often saying ‘Namaste’ or ‘Good day’. We had a wonderful experience in every respect.

Nick & Charlie being led by shepasNick and Charlie being led by the Sherpas

To reach Base Camp, it was wonderful feeling to know that many more had gone before us, and many thousands will go after us to that place. A very special place for Nepal, a very special place also for us because we now know when we hear about mountain climbers doing different special things, we can visualize what they are doing. The rocks they are crossing over and all the canyons and crevasses. Just to get there, it was like reading a book in Braille, we felt everything on the trail, on the way up and we certainly felt everything on our way down. So we now know every inch of what people might talk about when they are saying they are coming to Kathmandu and will go trekking. So for that we say thank you to everyone involved – all of our porters,all of our guides, who got us back safely without any fuss or hindrance. Yes, an enjoyable experience. Whether you be sighted or blind, if you get the opportunity, come!”

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Play Testimonial by Charlie” dl=”0″]


Brian Odea, Sydney Australia:

I was quite surprised when I was approached by Nick to join this expedition. I have always been in awe of the achievements of Nick and Charlie and I still am. I was also in awe of Roseanne and Alvina, who are helping on this trip and its been a wonderful experience for me. I have never been to Nepal before. I have fallen in love with Nepal. I find it a very tiring way of falling in love with the country, but its been an exciting trek, I have loved it.

Being in awe of what Charlie and Nick have achieved in this, I know that its been made so much easy by the company by some of the experiences. I would like to thank Da Wongchu for his personal leadership. He selected a very good team and he led a very good team and he was always there quietly and efficiently helping us and his leadership made it really easy for us. I would like to thank him for that. It was a great experience.”

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Play Testimonial by Brian” dl=”0″]

Rozanne Green (Sydney, Australia):

Rozanne & CharlieRozanne with Charlie

I work in IT Australia which is very different from trekking out in the bush. I did Kilimanjaro with Nick and Charlie in 2001.But it has been a dream since 2001 to climb Everest but as Charlie said I thought I would never get to live my dream. Nick rang me this year to do Everest and it has been a privilege to be a part of this wonderful team. We all gelled so well. We had a great time together. There were times when we had headache, shortness of breathe, indigestion yet there would be a lot of laughter. We were very fortunate to have two Everest summiteers as our guide – Da Wongchu and Ngawang who is the same age as my son. And we are very privileged to have them as part of our team. The porters were also very wonderful as well. Nick and Charlie are surely an inspiration. They sometimes led us on the trail rather than us leading them.

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Play Testimonial by Rozanne” dl=”0″]

Vina & NickVina with Nick-At EBC

Vina Accomazzo (North Carolina, USA):

“What I enjoyed most about the trek was the way we worked together as a team and we supported one another. There was never any negativity. It was just we laughed every single day. But what made it very, very special every one has said, was the team itself, but also our porters and our sherpas. They were absolutely wonderful. They always had a nice smile for us everyday. I saw them many times when they were guiding Charlie or Nick that they would risk their own lives when they were on the very edge and they were very close that they could have slipped and  fallen themselves, but they risked their own lives to protect Nick and Charlie. I would never forget that. The Nepalese people are wonderful people and Explore Himalaya went above and beyond the call of duty for what they should have done. They went way over our expectations, so we are very grateful to them.”

With Sherpas

[wpaudio url=”″ text=”Play Testimonial by vina” dl=”0″]

(Photos Courtesy: Rozanne Green)

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