Brian Smith, pictured on his climb of Mount Everest, is back to tell the tale.

Local man who climbed Mount Everest to speak

Life hasn't quite been the same for Brian Smith since he stepped on top of the world May 24.

Early that day Smith, 37, a 1988 graduate of South Medford High School, fought illness and exhaustion to summit Mount Everest. By stepping onto the world's tallest peak at 29,035 feet, he realized a dream he had since he was in the ninth grade when he would often spend his lunch hours dashing over to the Medford library to check out books on Everest.

But the son of Larry and Linda Smith of Jacksonville had to overcome a life-threatening case of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) three weeks before achieving his goal of climbing to the roof of the world.

"There are both good and bad things about coming back from achieving life's dream," he said. "On the good side, there are definitely more opportunities such as speaking and being inspirational to people. I've even had several companies contact me who said they needed someone with the drive to climb Everest to be on their sales force.

"On the other side, you are on a mission with a goal for two months, then you come back to a chaotic world," he added.

As a result of his experience, the real estate investor is now giving goal-setting motivational talks based on his experience. He has five engagements in Jackson County and two in Bellevue, Wash., early in September. The presentation in Bellevue involves speaking to employees at the Zango corporation headquarters. It will be televised to employees in Montreal and Tel Aviv.

He has already given a presentation to a Toastmasters group in Fort Collins, Colo. He and his wife, Helen, live in Loveland, Colo. They have two children: daughter Chloe, 6, and son Everest, 3.

"I've never done any public speaking but it's kind of fun," Smith said. "I'm using both pictures and stories about the climb to bring the culture and experience to people."

Smith also will be featured in a four-part BBC documentary called "Everest ER" which will be released in the United Kingdom in December followed by an international release in January.

"That will be exciting — they are building it around my story," he said, referring to his near-fatal run-in with HAPE, which caused him to return to lower elevations to recover before challenging the mountain three weeks later.

Two BBC camera crews filmed Smith at 17,500-foot elevation base camp as well as the 2,500-foot high Khumbu Icefall and at Camp 1 at nearly 20,000 feet above sea level. Climbing guide Willie Benegas of the Seattle-based Mountain Madness, an adventure travel firm contracted by Brian Smith to guide him to the top, filmed the rest of the Smith's climb for the BBC.

"I was so sick and worn out but I decided to give it my best shot," he recalled. "After I started feeling a little better the drive and determination came back.

"Looking back, I wouldn't change anything," he added. "If I had opportunity to redo the trip and take HAPE out of it, I wouldn't do that."

The added hardship, he explained, made climbing the planet's tallest mountain all the more rewarding.

Before heading to Nepal, Smith, already a seasoned mountain climber, had toned up by traveling to Argentina early this year to climb Aconcagua, at 22,841 feet the highest peak in the Americas. He later climbed two nearly 20,000-foot peaks in Mexico.

His love of hiking and climbing began as a youngster in Crater Lake National Park when his father, now a retired teacher, worked as a park ranger during the summers. During his senior year in high school, he made his first winter ascent of Mount Rainier, the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range at 14,409 feet. He has made 33 ascents on Rainier, where he did a stint as a park ranger after high school.

His wife has joined him in climbing Mount Rainier.

"Since Everest, I feel great," Smith said. "I climbed six of Colorado's '14'ers' in five days. Of course, climbing 14,000 feet feels like nothing now."

His goal is to climb all 54 peaks in Colorado that rise to 14,000 feet or more.

"Most people save Everest for last but there are a lot of other mountains I want to climb," he said. "I'd like to take a shot at K2 (in Nepal). And I haven't climbed Denali (in Alaska). It's not as high as Everest of course, but the oxygen level at the summit and the cold makes it just as challenging.

"Another goal is the South Pole but it's still in the dream category," he added.

Smith is creating a Web site expected to be online soon. The address is

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at

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