November 17, 2016
On November 17, AGBU Western District, in collaboration with the local chapters and committees as well as the Armenian Hikers Association and the Armenian Hikers Society, hosted “An Evening with Ara Khatchadourian.”
Over 100 guests filled AGBU Boyajian Hall at the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Center, eager to hear about Khatchadourian’s climb to the top of Mount Everest, the tallest peak in the world, in honor of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
Khatchadourian took the stage and shared his journey as a mountain climber. He highlighted his trips up Mt. Ararat and Mt. Kilimanjaro as well as his completion of the Iron Man Challenge in preparation for his climb up Mt. Everest. He knew muscle memory would be critical to his success, so he trained his body by strapping weights and water to his back and legs and going on hikes during nighttime, and training his lungs by exercising with cloth in his mouth, forcing him to breath only from his nose, hoping it would help his body cope with the difficulties he would face in Nepal.
In 2015, Khatchadourian ventured on his first attempt to climb Mt. Everest but due to an earthquake they were forced to cease the attempt. Khatchadourian returned home determined to reach the peak of Everest the following year.
The lights of Boyajian Hall dimmed as Khatchadourian’s short film projected the room. The film featured the demanding and gruesome weather conditions encountered by the team of climbers on their trek displaying terrifying images of snow filled cliffs as he explained the challenges of having to go up and down the mountain repeatedly to adapt to the elevation. Khatchadourian described dealing with challenges such as frozen water and not sleeping. At around 7,500m, the group of climbers needed to start using oxygen masks and around 8,300m, Khatchadourian made his last phone call home – leaving him with no contact with the rest of the world for the duration of his climb.
On May 22nd, Ara Khatchadourian reached 8848m, accomplishing his goal of scaling Mount Everest. Khatchadourian’s footage from the top of Mount Everest is truly breathtaking.
The audience roared with applause when Khatchadourian displayed the photos of him holding the Armenia and AGBU flags atop the mountain. After reaching the peak, he stated “I didn’t know how to react, whether to laugh, cry, or celebrate.” He couldn’t feel his fingers and toes due to severe frostbite and burns on his face ached him. Since his safe return, Khatchadourian has been sharing his story with AGBU communities throughout the world. He gave six presentations during his visit to Los Angeles alone, to scouts groups, chapters, schools, and the community at large.
One audience member asked “What was the first thing you were thinking of doing the moment you made it down?” Khatchadourian gave the audience a good laugh by stating that wasn’t on his mind at all, all he could think about was how he was going to get down. When asked about his thoughts preceding the journey, Khatchadourian stated “I never had doubts that I would do it.”