TAMWORTH — Tamworth's Russ Staples has had a lifelong love affair with the mountains, and despite having undergone a bypass operation in 2010, he still gets out to hike easier routes in Zealand Valley and Mounts Paugus and Chocorua.
But, fresh out of college, he and a fellow University of New Hampshire grad (who like Staples was serving in the Peace Corps in India) made the trekking trip of their young lives to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.
Staples is scheduled to give talks over the next few weeks about his and Ken French’s experiences.
He also will discuss his book, “My Everest Odyssey,” written last year and published by Beech River Books of Center Ossipee.
On May 1 at 6 p.m., Staples will be at the Conway Public Library and on May 23, at 7 p.m. at the Madison Public Library.
Sponsored by the Wolfeboro Conservation Committee, Staples also will be at the Abenaki Ski Area, Route 109, Wolfeboro, on May 9 at 6 p.m.
All events are free and open to the public. Copies of “My Everest Odyssey” will be available for sale.
Copies of the 179-page paperback book also are available at White Birch Books and International Mountain Equipment, both in North Conway.
The book chronicles how in November 1967 Staples and French became among the earliest Americans to set foot at the 17,800-foot base camp of Mount Everest, which at 29,029 feet, is the world’s tallest mountain.
Staples, then 22, set out with a borrowed backpack, $200 in his pocket and an abundance of youthful enthusiasm that would serve him well on his often-harrowing, 27-day, 400-mile journey by foot.
“Unlike Everest adventures of today (when as many as 40,000 people trek to base camp each year), my hike was unsupported — the robust Everest tourism industry hadn’t yet arrived in Nepal,” Staples told the Sun in an interview this week.
“There were no planes, no hospitals, and certainly no rescues," he said. "Instead, we relied on the generosity and kindness of rural Nepali farmers and our own grit and determination.
Staples and French's journey took them past ancient Buddhist monasteries, he said, as well as through terraced fields and pristine Himalayan wilderness as they walked in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary, who first conquered the mountain in 1953.
Staples’ memoir is based on a journal he kept and includes never-before-published photos of Everest.
He notes in his foreword, “This is the account of my journey from the village of Gyarampalle in southern India to the base of the tallest mountain in the world and back, a journey that would take 40 days and involve travel by planes, trains, busses and rickshaws.”
The book won praise from local climbers, including Rick Wilcox, president of International Mountain Equipment and leader of the successful 1991 New England Everest Expedition.
“Russ Staples’ 1967 trek to Everest Base Camp stands in my mind as great an adventure as can be for this young man,” Wilcox wrote in a blurb that appeared on the book's back cover.
Staples gained his love of the outdoors by fishing, camping and hiking in the White Mountains of his native New Hampshire and while working at the summit hotel atop Mount Washington in 1963.
Staples joined the Peace Corps in 1966. After three years as a volunteer, then an associate director in India, he returned to the United States to spend a few years as a Peace Corps recruiter.
He also spent 12 years as scoutmaster to the local Boy Scout troop and was a foster parent to nine boys with special needs.
Staples retired after 15 years working in special education. He is now an avid gardener, hiker and fly-fishing enthusiast.
He dedicates the book in memory of French (1946-2017).
“Recent trekkers who have heard my story and seen my pictures seem to have a difficult time relating to and understanding the time and circumstances of my trek," Staples said. "To hear their stories and see their pictures leaves me questioning how Ken and I ever succeeded in achieving the same goal in 1967."
But, he said, "as ill-planned, ill-equipped and ill-funded as this trek was, just how did these two young adventurers manage to pull it off? Well, to be truthful, much of the success can be attributed to good luck."
Staples added, "Ken and I each had unique strengths and talents, and we complemented each other nicely. I cannot imagine that Base Camp would have been reached had I been with anyone besides Ken.”
For more on the book, call Staples at (603) 323-8559 or email email@example.com.