CHRIS WARNER, owner of Earth Treks Climbing Center in Columbia and the first Marylander to reach the summit of Mount Everest, drew on his experiences in delivering the keynote address to new students at Howard Community College last week.
Using Mount Everest as a metaphor for any challenge, Warner, 37, advised students to adhere to the tenets of passion, vision, partnership and perseverance, principles that he applied to his education and that have contributed to his success in business.
A graduate of the University of Colorado, Warner took eight years to complete his degree in mountain geography. "I left school every six to nine months to raise money to pay for tuition," he said. "In my last semester at the university, I had to make a choice between paying tuition and paying rent. I chose tuition and lived in my car for an entire semester. I was determined to finish, no matter what."
Warner lives in Oella with Joyce Warner, his wife of 13 years. Joyce, owner of Teamworks Training and Development, is also an accomplished climber. "My wife is a spectacular individual," Warner said. "She is infinitely more talented than I am."
A New Jersey native, Warner got hooked on climbing at the age of 18 when he conquered Grand Teton in Wyoming. Since then, he has made more than 70 international trips to climb some of the most challenging mountains, including the world's highest peak, Mount Everest, on May 23. Warner had attempted to scale Everest last year, but severe weather and avalanches forced him to turn back at 25,000 feet.
"There are 14 peaks in the world above 8,000 meters that are coveted by climbers," he said. "If you had nothing better to do in your life, you could spend it climbing those 14 peaks."
And that was the goal Warner had set for himself, until the climb to the 29,035-foot summit of Everest took a frightening turn.
"Two of our team members summited very late in the afternoon. On their descent they started to weaken. We eventually had to leave them," Warner said. "In the past, when you bivouac that high, at least one person has died. I had gone to the summit and come back down again. There was no way I could go back up to rescue them. I was 90 percent wasted."
Over the next two days, Warner coordinated a rescue for his two team members and two Russian climbers, but they were unable to save a third Russian. As the rescuers made their way down the mountain, the body of the climber who had died came hurtling through the air; it had slipped off the rocks.
"There are some ambitions that I had before [climbing Everest] that I've given up, like climbing all 14 peaks," Warner said. "I have decided that it's not important to me anymore. I don't want to chase a goal for the goal's sake. I want each and every adventure to have value itself."
Warner estimates that more than 20,000 students across the country accompanied him on his journey to the top of Everest, via the Internet. With the aid of Howard County teachers Hillary Sandberg and Bob Keddell, Warner started "Shared Summits," an online opportunity for students to participate in his adventures while learning math, science, social studies and language arts. Students follow his adventures using a curriculum the teachers developed.
Ilchester Elementary School pupils answered the most questions correctly in the curriculum's "Yak that Fact" contest, earning a visit yesterday from Warner and Ram Chandra Sunuwar, a Sherpa who joined Warner on the trip to the top of Everest. The men presented the school with an engraved ice ax, used in climbing.
"I feel like I'm an educator first and a climber second," Warner said. "Hopefully, we can capture their imagination through these lessons and have them apply what they learn to other parts of their lives. What we're trying to do is give the kids permission to be daydreamers. It's powerfully rewarding."
Clarence Page and Julie Van Hemert will show sculpture and mobiles in their exhibit "Copper, Clay and Fire" at Slayton House Gallery from Sept. 6 through Oct. 8. Photographer and computer artist Joe Bettinger also will participate in the exhibit with a collection of his photographs titled "Motion in Nature"
There will be a reception for the artists from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 16. The public is invited.
U.S. Army Field Band soloists Staff Sgt. Cheryl Matthews Ani and Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey G. Price will present a free recital at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at Historic Oakland. Dessert and coffee will be served after the performance.
Reservations are required.
Information and reservations: 410-730-4744.