CSU student climbs Mount Everest to 17,500-foot South Base Camp

Cunningham proudly stands at the Everest base camp with CSU Alumni Amy Gane while the pair hold Cunningham’s Colorado flag. The ground is covered in other flags that travelers have left behind to decorate the base camp.
Rebekah Cunningham proudly stands at the Everest base camp with CSU alumna Amy Gane, class of ’99, while the pair hold Cunningham’s flag, which features both the Colorado state flag and the CSU logo.

Rebekah Cunningham, a sophomore in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University, recently went on an adventure many of us could only dream about. In October 2018, she and a group of fellow travelers trekked to the southern base camp of Mount Everest. The trip lasted 20 days and included 12 days of consecutive trekking, two days for altitude acclimation, as well as traveling and recreation days.

Cunningham stands in front of a rock painted to read "Everest Base Camp 2018." She wears her Colorado flag.

Cunningham planned the trip with the help of a friend, Jed Dart, who had trekked to South Base Camp before. South Base Camp is the primary site for travelers who begin their climb of Mount Everest in Nepal, and is the higher of the two main base camps. After Cunningham convinced Dart to go to the base camp again, they pulled together the rest of the group. While both had connections to various members, they were, as a whole, a diverse group of travelers. Each individual was an avid outdoor adventurer, and the group came together in search of their next adrenaline rush.

Cunningham's hiking boots sit in the foreground as she rests and admires the mountain peak.

Adventure of a lifetime

Battling subzero temperatures means dealing with everything from trying to stay warm at night to having your drinking water freeze solid, all while fighting through unbelievable exhaustion. However, every member of Cunningham’s trekking team made it to South Base Camp, and shared in the accomplishment and elation of their arrival.

“The most important things I learned from my trek were the importance of teamwork and that we need to listen to our bodies,” Cunningham said. “During the trek, it was essential that we rely on each other and encourage each other. As much as listening to my team members, I also had to practice listening to my body by not pushing myself too hard in the extreme conditions,” explained Cunningham.

“It’s a different world at 17,500 ft.” Cunningham said, “Hiking to Everest’s Base Camp was easily the hardest thing I’ve accomplished in my life so far, but it also is the most rewarding. It was overall the biggest and best adventure I’ve had, and once I did it, it was the most intense feeling of accomplishment and serenity that I’ve ever experienced.”

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

The entire trekking group stands in front of the "Everest Base Camp" sign.
Cunningham and the rest of her trekking group.