Gary is a regular feature in our Shake It Up Hero stories – and for good reason. Gary has been visiting Mt Everest year on year, including as a virtual challenge during the pandemic, all to raise funds for essential Australian Parkinson’s research.
We spoke to him all about this year’s Trek for Parkinson’s, what inspires him to keep making a difference for Parkinson’s, and how people can support his work with Trek Ready Himalayas in support of Shake It Up.
Hi Gary! Tell us all about this year’s Everest Trek for Parkinson’s. How was the journey?
The journey began 12 months earlier on our return from Nepal, Mt Everest base Camp in 2022. We were amongst the first to leave Australia post Covid lockdowns, and on return we met Sandra Gerschwitz whilst training on Mt Ngnunun, Glasshouse Mountains, who lives with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD). The idea and the journey as well as the challenge for 2023’s trek began.
Well, we all arrived safely in Kathmandu, however our flight to Lukla (the gateway to Mt Everest), was stopped due to poor weather. So, we stopped and strategised what to do. Deciding as a group to divert to Mt Annapurna base camp, via Pokhara Airport. Eight of us, including Sandi, travelled to Mt Annapurna Base camp at 4100M, with amazing support from our guides Tony and Vikram from Nepal Spirit Adventure, all doing so safely and with great satisfaction. A huge effort as some days involved climbing over 2500 stairs and then descending another 2500, Lots of up and lots of down.
A most picturesque region of the Himalayas, each day walking in sunshine, rain, sleet and then snow. Fully emersed into the sherpa culture of the mountains. A life changing experience for everyone. Some of the group came from the US, Pittsburgh, Darwin, Adelaide, Melbourne, and the Sunshine Coast.
What does training for an Everest trek involve?
Lots of hills, lots of ups and down stairs, conditioning the mind to cope with remoteness, being open to being well and truly outside of your normal life and comfort zone. Being open to making new friends from all over the world and walks of life.
At least 3 months of regular hill training with a 6 kg pack on, say 3 times a week for at least 90 minutes, plus some weight work, swimming, and the occasional massage. Train like you will trek.
What drives your commitment to fundraise for Parkinson’s?
I genuinely want to see an end to Parkinson’s disease. Working with PD patients and now walking the Himalayas with a young lady with YOPD has only strengthened that commitment. If we can stop it early on in a patient’s journey, maybe we can eradicate it all together – that would be something special.
This year, with Sandi’s involvement, you had a focus on Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease – why do you feel it’s important to raise awareness about this?
Having spent the past year training with a young lady with YOPD, and seeing the challenges faced by a young mother of three – from housing and education to self-care, driving, being a mum and a woman. Followed by the effort required to firstly get to Nepal, and then trek in the Himalayas, it was inspiring.
The other thing was that this group of people are using social media and can be reached with more information to raise awareness. They have their life in front of them, with children, grandchildren, careers. Surely, we can do a little bit to help stop YOPD.
Listen to our podcast interview with Gary and Sandra on The Shake It Up Show
What words of advice do you have for others hoping to make a difference for Parkinson’s?
Contact people with PD, and observe how they live their life, how they get by. How they adjust, how it takes them longer to do what we assume are simple things like get dressed in the morning, or schedule their medication. And then realise that you can do a little bit to help. They don’t want your sympathy; they need your help to find better treatments and stop this thing in its tracks.
Join in with a like minded group, such as #trekforparkinsons2024 and see how the combined efforts make a difference.
Can you describe a Trek Ready Himalayas adventure in four words?
Empowering, Memorable, Breathtaking, Accomplishment
How can people get involved for 2024?
We have launched #trekforparkinsons2024 to support Shake it Up Australia. We’ve created an email group which I send out information once a week around training, skin protection, hydration, gear lists, what to expect, local language, and customs, when to book flights and how to organise a visa on arrival. Simply get in touch and I will add to the group.
We also schedule regular Google meet ups twice a month to allow people a forum to ask any questions that are bugging them, about bathrooms, showers, what should I pack, what shouldn’t I pack, access to Wi-Fi, travel insurance etc.
Want to get involved? Click the link here to join Trek for Parkinson’s 2024 today!
You can get in touch with Gary and the Trek Ready Himalayas team at the details below:
M: 0409 573951