Greenville’s Ricky Singh is a physically ambitious person. As his 50th birthday loomed, he set out to complete 50 full marathons in 50 states before he celebrated the half-century mark.
But Singh achieved that goal three years early. So he turned to an even loftier goal – what he called “the next item on my bucket list” – literally scaling Mount Everest.
In a year with a record number of deaths on the infamously treacherous climb, Singh says he decided to attempt the summit on a day with questionable weather conditions. This way he would avoid the long waits that caused some hikers to lose so much oxygen and lead to their deaths.
“We (Singh and his Sherpa) went one day ahead on the 21st, when the weather was less than ideal so we had little or no crowds. The choice was going in bad weather and risking life and limb or going in good weather and waiting behind all the traffic. I chose bad weather. And lived to tell the story.”
Because Singh summited when few others did, he was able to spend 20 minutes on top of Mount Everest. “We took a break there and had a chocolate bar there along with some water. We sat down and put the heavy backpack with the oxygen cylinder down and took a breather. Then we admired the world from up there and then got back to the business of trying to get down safely.”
The legendary Himalayan peak is roughly 28,579 feet above our state’s highest point, said by the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) to be a mighty, “around 450 feet” area of Ebright Road in North Wilmington.*
On May 21, the Stonewold resident stood “at the top of the world,” having successfully and safely (despite suffering frostbite in his fingers) reached Everest’s summit after spending two months in Nepal preparing. Singh has now climbed a mountain 65 times what is available in his home state.
Now back in Wilmington, Singh told us earlier today this was his fifth trip to Nepal, where he climbed to base came four times and a higher point, called Camp 3, just last year.
Singh, who owns Speedy Gas stations on Kirkwood Highway and Philadelphia Pike as well as a 7-11 franchise on South Main Street in Newark, used his Garmin Tracker throughout his six-week climb so family and friends could pinpoint his locations on a map.
In notes to them, he expressed “emotions of joy, relief, happiness, satisfaction but also of sorrow, disbelief, anger and sadness,” referring to this spring’s human toll on the mountain. At least 11 climbers have died and reports and videos from the mountain show crowds of hikers backed up at the summit.
“Passing the dead bodies and the dying were the toughest and still to date are the toughest scenes to forget,” said Singh. “A lot of the people that have died this season were among the many people that I had met and gotten to know at base camp.”
Still, Singh was awed and felt “blessed” by the experience.
“They say that on a good clear day, you can see the curvature of the earth from the summit. I craned my neck to look but was too tired to tell if the earth was flat or curved. I guess will just have to believe my science teacher that the earth is round.”
At the summit, there was no fireworks or epiphanies or transformations. It was just bitter cold and windy and I was super tired.
Sat down and took signs out that I had made only to realize that my phone battery was dead. Luckily my guide, Phurba had just enough juice for one summit picture. Got mild frostbite on 3 of my fingers trying to get to the summit and back, but that is indeed a small price to pay for a lifetime bucket list goal.
Reflecting on what must be among the most extreme experiences one could encounter on Earth, Singh wrote of how close the end can be. “All of a sudden you realize how fragile life is. Makes me want to hug my family and friends even closer and keep them close to my heart. #Everest2019Done”
Singh told TSD that he has run ultramarathons and also climbed other significant peaks in Nepal, including Lobuche Peak in September 2017, and Mount Manasalu – the eighth highest mountain in the world – in Sept 2018.
Singh was unaware if any other Delawareans had summited the great mountain. Let us know if you know a Delawarean who has climbed Mount Everest.
*In case you were wondering, Delaware is not the flattest/shortest state. That honor belongs to Florida, with their puny 345 Britton Hill. According to our friends at DGS: “It’s a common misconception that Delaware’s High Point at Ebright is the lowest of all US States’ high points. This was based on a question in the popular trivia game Trivial Pursuit. In fact, Florida has the lowest high point at 345 feet (Britton Hill, on the Panhandle, near Lakewood). Actually, Delaware would have the third lowest high point if Washington DC became a state (Fort Reno at 429ft).”