At the end of August, Dementia Alliance International (DAI) hosted its monthly Café Le Brain event, featuring a remarkable guest, Murray Faulkner. Murray, a DAI member living with dementia, shared his incredible adventure to Nepal, where he participated in the Mount Everest Platinum Jubilee Celebrations, commemorating 70 years since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's historic ascent in 1953.
Murray's journey took him to Khumjung, the heart of the Everest region, on the very date of the historic achievement - May 29th, 2023. This 12-day trek, including three days around Khunde and Khumjung, was organized by the Himalayan Trust, an international non-profit humanitarian organization originating in New Zealand (Aotearoa).
What made this journey extraordinary was not only its significance but also Murray's determination and the support of his family. With a diagnosis of Huntington's Disease (HD), Murray faced unique challenges, but he was eager to embark on this adventure. His two sons, Gaz and Dan, played a crucial role in organizing and ensuring the trip's success.
The Himalayan Trust, founded by Sir Ed Hillary in 1961, has made an indelible impact on the Everest region in Nepal. It focuses on providing quality education, safe water, and better healthcare to remote mountainous communities. Currently supporting schools, hospitals, and clinics in the Solukhumbu region, the trust's efforts are a testament to the enduring legacy of Sir Edmund Hillary.
Murray Has been a long-time supporter of the Himalayan Trust, currently donating money to their cause as he has done for years. His passion for Nepal was ignited during his first trip in 2009 to the Annapurna Mountains and the wonderful Nepalese people. He could not resist returning in 2012 (Everest Base Camp and Gokyo) and again in 2017 (Langtang valley and Khumjung). During that visit he generously donated NZ $2200 to the Himalayan Trust to be used for developments like the Hillary School expansion at Khumjung. Murray even rolled up his sleeves to work with the building team at a challenging altitude of 3760 m. For comparison New Zealand's highest Mt Cook is 3724 m. He says that to be able to rekindle many friendships in Kathmandu and on the mountain was wonderful.
Living with dementia, Murray knew he needed to adapt to his circumstances this time around. The Hillary family, understanding his situation, made adjustments to accommodate his needs. He had a personal porter to assist with gear, ensuring his safety and comfort. However, at the beginning of the trek, an unfortunate incident with contaminated water resulted in severe diarrhea, making the journey less than ideal. But Murray's spirit remained undeterred.
Murray's story is a testament to the human spirit's resilience and the power of determination. Living with HD and dementia, he demonstrated that with the right support and awareness, one can still take on incredible challenges. His journey serves as an inspiration to all, showing that life's adventures don't have to end with a diagnosis; they can be enhanced by them. Murray Faulkner's story encourages us to keep pushing boundaries, pursuing our passions, and embracing every opportunity, no matter our circumstances.