Mountaineering at speaker's core

Dan Mazur's first trip to the top of the world came after a chance meeting in a Kathmandu sporting store.

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For most people, mountain climbing usually consists of an afternoon hike in the Blues or a weekend trip to the Wallulas, but for Dan Mazur, who spoke to a large crowd at Walla Walla Community College on Thursday night, it is a passion with unlimited possibilities.

Mazur, a mountain-climber best known for leading Greg Mortenson's expedition to K2 related in Mortenson's book "Three Cups of Tea," told the story of his trip to the summit of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Mazur explained to the audience that the first of his many trips to the summit was almost by accident.

After meeting an old man in a sporting store in Kathmandu, and asking where he was headed, the man told Mazur he was headed up the mountain.

"I asked if I could join him, and three weeks later I was standing on the summit of Mount Everest," he recalled. His thoughts when he got to the top? "How do we get down from here?"

After the lights were dimmed, Mazur, who lives in Olympia, showed photos of himself and the Soviet team he traveled with in what could almost be mistaken for an ice-covered alien world, far removed from any modern facilities or comforts of home.

"You could see the curvature of the earth," he said "The views were incredible -- an amazing place to watch the sun goes down."

In addition to Everest, Mazur has climbed six more of the world's highest peaks, and has led groups up many of them also. However, the Himalayas represent more to Mazur than just a place for high-altitude adventure and daring expeditions. Much of his time is spent raising funds for the impoverished Nepalese and Tibetan families who live around the mountains. Some of the foundations he has been involved with, such as the Mount Everest Foundation for Sustainable Development and the Mountain Fund, have built hospitals and schools.

For Mazur, mountaineering has been a life-changing experience, which is reflected in his commitment to the people of the region and his sense of humor regarding his own achievements. His shared his advice on what to do after scaling such a huge mountain.

"When you go to the summit of Everest, and its time for you to get your photo taken, make sure you take off your oxygen mask," said Mazur, displaying an image of himself, obscured by full protective gear, "Because otherwise that picture could be anyone."

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