ASHLAND, N.H. -- Jim Gagne, the first New Hampshire native to scale Mount Everest, is home, recovering from an exhausting climb and nursing a bad cough fairly common among mountaineers who tackle the world's highest peak.
Gagne, a Londonderry Fire Department firefighter-paramedic who also is a registered nurse, expects to be back to normal in a couple of weeks. For now, he's relishing his experience.
``I'm just in recovery mode," he told The Citizen. ``I'm not looking ahead to anything right now."
Gagne's adventure took about 90 days, flying from Boston to New York, to Bangkok, then to Katmandu, Nepal. His girlfriend, Michelle Piro of Ashland, went as far as the Everest Base Camp, a feat in itself.
The camp is at an altitude of about 17,500 feet on the 29,035 foot mountain, about a 12-day hike from the Nepali village of Lukla. ``It's very Third World," said Gagne, ``very packed, extremely dirty, very dusty, millions of people running around everywhere but at the same time it's very energizing."
Several hikers died on the mountain while Gagne's expedition was in the country. In one high-profile incident, a man died even though up to 40 climbers allegedly witnessed his situation. The event sparked criticism from Sir Edmund Hillary, who made the first ascent of Everest in 1953 with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
Gagne said it is extremely difficult to help someone in trouble on the upper reaches of Everest, partly because the altitude is too high and the air too thin for helicopters to function. Climbers, as they go on, also become weak and exhausted. Moving a person in such conditions requires a very strong team, Gagne said.
``Each 1,000 feet you go exhausts you more and more as you get less oxygen. It's extremely difficult to get yourself around," he said.
Gagne said he helped with five rescues during the climb.
With Everest under his belt, Gagne has climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents.
Gagne plans to take it easy for awhile. A major priority will be paying off the estimated $45,000 he spent on the expedition .