Crohn's sufferer conquers Mount Everest

Rob Hill said he would eventually do it. And he did.

The 39-year-old climber reached the peak of Mount Everest in late May after an attempt in April 2008 was cut short because of his medical condition.

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Hill, a former East Side resident who recently moved to Nanaimo, has Crohn's disease and requires the use of an ostomy. He told the Courier in 2008 he suffered a Crohn's flare-up but was determined some day to reach the world's highest peak.

"The last time, I didn't make it out of base camp," said Hill Wednesday from a downtown office where he operates the non-profit Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society. "So when I was able to leave base camp this time, it was a new adventure for me."

Hill, along with John Furneaux and Darrell Ainscough, took about 12 days to climb from base camp to the summit and return to base camp. It took roughly 15 hours alone on the trio's final push to the summit. The trio climbed through the night and Hill showed video footage to the Courier of his final ascent. "One step, four to five breaths," he said as he watched himself in a big orange parka and oxygen mask slowly stepping through the snow. "I was in better shape than last time, but I don't think anything can prepare you for a lack of oxygen and not being able to breathe."

The trio stayed on the summit for 20 minutes on what was a clear morning. Hill described the view as "incredible" and was awestruck by how small the mountains appeared below the peak. The trio's focus quickly shifted to getting back down the mountain, a journey that has resulted in many injuries and deaths over the years. "I just wanted to be safe again," Hill said.

At his office, he pulled a certificate and medal out of a shoulder bag, which were given to him by the Nepalese government for achieving such a feat. "It's pretty cool."

Reaching Everest capped off an eight-year journey for Hill to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents. He reached the peaks of Russia's Mount Elbrus, Argentina's Aconcagua, Africa's Kilimanjaro, Alaska's Denali, Antarctica's Vinson Massif and Indonesia's Carstenz Pyramid. He did it all to increase public knowledge of inflammatory bowel disease.

"It's amazing how many people are out there dealing with these types of diseases silently. That's why I'm out there trying to make it mainstream."

Hill looked exhausted Wednesday and he believes he lost 25 pounds on the Everest climb. He's been doing a lot of eating and sleeping since he returned last week.

What's next?

"I'm considering the [north and south] poles," he said, grinning.

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