Touching the heavens: Matt's Memo

Crescent moon and Venus nearly intersect.

The brillant crescent moon appeared to embrace Venus in the crisp sky to the west southwest. This unusual celestial occurrence peaked just as the sun set. The image inspires, making one wonder about the outer boundaries of our sky. That was Sunday evening. Monday evening I met a man who turns his wonder into achievement. He has come as close to the stars as anyone with his feet still grounded on Earth.

Will Cross has walked the North and South Poles. He has climbed the highest peak of each of our seven continents. That includes the summit of Chomolungma, known to most as Mount Everest.

Will is from Pittsburgh. He visited Syracuse tonight as the guest of the Kinney Drugs Foundation. This spring he completed his most recent expedition to Makalu the fifth highest mountain in the world. It stands in the Himalayas within view of Everest.

Cross brought his motivational speaker skills to the Doubletree Hotel tonight for this 6th annual charity event to benefit diabetes. His mix of humor, passion and precise storytelling held the room riveted to his every word. A mix of still photos and video of his attempts to climb Everest helped visualize the death defying effort required to reach the summit and safely return.

Much of his talk centered on his first bid to summit in 2004. He detailed the challenges of altitude and loss of oxygen. He related the perpetual flu like symptoms that come deprivation and dehydration. He discussed the life threatening challenges his team faced that force his first two attempts to abort within sight of the summit.

He ultimately reached the peak in 2006. That's the photo you see above as Cross stands on an area he compared in size to standing on your kitchen chair. He admitted to bearing the broadest of smiles under his oxygen mask and tears rolling down his cheeks. Yet, climbers can spare no more than twenty minutes at the summit. The descent is just as critical and difficult. Burning quadriceps, fatigue and oxygen drain take their toll.

This accomplished explorer revealed it was four or five days later where the "river of joy" came over him. His daily obsession with preparing for the ascent, summit and descent paid off in an indescribable elation.

By the way, the reason Will Cross came to speak to a fundraiser for diabetes, he is a type one diabetic. Tonight he was wearing an insulin pump. He climbs, in part, to tell others the illness need not limit anyone. He monitors glucose and treats his diabetes on all his endeavors. Just one more challenge that he takes in stride as he steps as close the heavens as any person can be without their feet leaving planet Earth.

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