Joel Reichenberger: Meyer's dreams big and small

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

Eric Meyer doesn’t like telling about his mountain climbing adventures with either a simple “yes” or a “no.” One word never sums up his stories, and frankly, neither does 1,000, which is about what I use to tell of his latest trip to the Himalaya.

That doesn’t leave nearly enough room for Meyer’s plans for the future, which are about as interesting as the trip he just got back from.

Much of Meyer’s dedication to the towering mountains of that section of the world has come about thanks to his close friendship with Sherpa Chhiring Dorje.

The pair met in 2004 as Meyer prepared to tackle his first 8,000-meter peak, Mount Everest. Chhiring was working for another expedition, but he and Meyer became fast friends and have been climbing together since.

They were together on K2 in 2008 when Chhiring displayed almost superhuman strength, downclimbing an icy section of the route while carrying another climber on his back after an avalanche had swept away the fixed rope system.

Chhiring is a regular visitor to Meyer’s Steamboat Springs home and has even considered moving to the area.

It’s a friendship that doesn’t show any signs of abating. Meyer has a lot of plans floating around in his head. He said he’d like to try K2 again, this time on a different, more remote route. He’s not eager to go back to Everest unless it’s for a reason, and Chhiring provides a good one. The pair hope to resume the search for the body of 1920s explorer Sandy Irvine, which could contain evidence that Irvine and George Mallory might have beaten Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the summit of Everest by more than 30 years. Chhiring thinks he has a bead on where to find the body that has eluded searchers for decades.

But the trek Meyer said he’s most looking forward to is to a mountain few in the United States have even heard of.

Cheki-go is a midget com­­pared with Makalu and Everest, checking in at 6,257 meters, or about 25 percent shorter than either of those two giants.

It’s near the village Chhiring grew up in, however, and is like Makalu in that it’s the kind of tight pyramid peak that catches the eye of a climber.

While in the region, Meyer said he hopes to help establish a birthing center in Chhiring’s hometown. He said Chhiring’s mother died while giving birth to another child, and proper medical care is a cause that always has been important to Chhiring.

That’s important to Meyer, too. He spends time giving basic medical care in the villages that his teams pass through any time he’s climbing in the region.

But he admitted that the chance to climb again with Chhiring meant a lot to him, as well.

“It’s a great chance to climb with him,” he said. “We’re like brothers. We trust each other with our lives. Literally.”

That’s a good friend to have at 8,000 meters, and a good one to have at any elevation.

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