Scaling the mountain of humanity

Photos: Pedro Queirós

On 8 May 2022, Pedro Queirós gazed up from the South Summit of Mt Everest and spotted the top of the world, a short distance along a wind-swept ridge.

For the past 12 days, he had been in Camps 2 and 3, at 6,500-7,500m elevation, to avoid summit traffic and the deadly, fragile Khumbu Icefall they would have to cross on their return.

Queirós and Mingma Sherpa of 14summit set out with ropes to the top after calculating an optimal 48-hour window. At 9:39AM on 9 May, Queirós became the first non-Nepali climber this season and the sixth Portuguese overall to summit the world’s highest peak.

Queirós, 40, grew up near the sea, playing football with his friends and exploring forests. Unlike many climbers, he was not exposed to the mountains, but wanted to explore the world, which ultimately brought him to faraway Nepal.

The climb was brutal. Queirós had set out with an unshakable iron will, but the hunger, numbness in hands and legs, the 100mph winds, -40°C, loneliness up in the mountains, and the dead bodies on the slopes took their toll. It made him question his decision to climb Everest, and fear for his life.

“Everything stayed the same, and yet, everything changed,” reflects Queirós. “I was reborn with Everest. There, you find out who you really are.”

It took them about ten hours from the South Col to reach the Hillary Step. But each new struggle pushed him to continue, recounts Queirós, as the peak ahead was juxtaposed against the harrowing frozen body of an Indian climber who had died there last year. Queirós wanted to live, and he would.

Everest was not just to satisfy Queirós’s passion for adventure, but also to fundraise for the education of 25 children in Nepal that he supports.

He had previously come to Nepal in 2015 to trek to the Everest Base Camp, after backpacking through Vietnam, only to experience the 7.8M earthquake. He then spent a year providing food, building houses and running Camp Hope, a refugee camp, for more than 350 people.

“It was a life-changing event for me,” he says. “After living through the earthquake, seeing all the destruction, my life was never the same. Since then, I have been helping Nepal, my second home. It has given a lot to me, and I want to give back.”

This was the beginning of Dreams of Kathmandu to help children and those in need of education, housing, nutrition and health. Under his #nohunger initiative, Queirós has also helped provide food to 100 families in Sindhupalchok and continues to feed 200 meals a day to children and adults in the slum areas of Mulpani.

Through Dreams of Kathmandu, Queirós raises funds for building homes, providing meals or scholarships through adventures such as climbing, running and walking.

On 10 January 2017, he walked from Taj Mahal to Kathmandu to raise €17,000 for earthquake victims and in April 2018 climbed Island Peak to raise funds to build the Sharadas orphanage in Kathmandu.

Further, with the Dwarika’s Foundation, he has built 96 houses in Sindhupalchok and 25 in Chapagaun, provided 100 scholarships, sponsored more than 50,000 meals after the earthquake, and fed over 3,000 families across Nepal.

The climber has also been able to raise funds for dental appointments, financially assisted surgeries, ophthalmology appointments, and clothing and blankets for families.

The 2022 Everest expedition was part of Project X, a humanitarian adventure initiative. With them Queirós has climbed Ama Dablam and run a marathon to build a house for the family of a young Nepali boy. The team has also raise €10,000 to support the education of 25 children.

All of the proceeds go directly to charity. “Every cent,” adds Queirós. “The travelling costs, hotel costs and food expenses come from my own pocket.”

Now, after the expedition, Queirós looks forward to some rest to recover from his injuries and spend time with family. “But in the future, perhaps I will swim the English Channel from France to England,” he says “or go to Antarctica to summit Vinson Massif.”

It is nevertheless difficult to raise funds these days, he laments, and to convince foreigners to donate for people of another country.

“A lot has to be done to get resources,” he says. “But the first time I saw Everest, I thought it would be impossible to climb it. Like every dream, if you believe it, you can do it. I want to continue helping, and I am not stopping.”

Read more: Um Hong-Gil’s Project Impossible, Sonia Awale

Aria Shree Parasai