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He's helping others reach life's peaks

His work at Mount Everest's base means more to him than climbing it.

By NICOLE JOHNSON
Published January 10, 2007


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After he rescued a half-dead New Zealand climber near the top of the world's tallest mountain, Dan Mazur gained international fame for the "Miracle on Mount Everest."

But it's the more down-to-earth aspects of his work for others - bringing schools and clinics to communities surrounding the mountain - that Mazur prefers that others focus on.

And those endeavors are what is bringing Mazur to Tampa Bay for two speaking engagements this weekend.

Mazur's talks in Tampa and Clearwater will benefit the Mount Everest Foundation for Sustainable Development, an organization that builds hospitals, schools, and environmental projects around Mount Everest.

Those projects help a community that has helped him achieve so much. He often uses Sherpas from neighboring communities. And once up on the mountains, the views of farmers herding yak and effervescent air energize him.

They live hard, meager lives, but they are always willing to help, he said.

"To even get to a bus these people have to walk three days, so it's a public health issue," said Mazur, 46, of Olympia, Wash. "This is a way of helping them to help themselves."

His appearances also will help raise money for Tampa's Big Cat Rescue, a local sanctuary for wild cats like those found in the Himalayas.

Mazur began exploring the Himalayas 21 years ago with friends. Now he returns to Mount Everest every year either to climb on his own or work as a mountain guide with Summit Climb, a Washington-state guide organization leading excursions across the globe.

"I can really get to know people in those quiet settings," Mazur said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

"My most favorite thing is helping people to live up to their potential," he said. "Whatever they want it to be, I help them get there."

But before his famous rescue last spring, Mazur himself had only been to the very top of the mountain once.

In May, Mazur and his crew came across a New Zealand climber who was half-undressed and near death. There had been reports the climber was dead. The group was about an hour and a half away from the top of the mountain.

It had taken days to get that far and would have been Mazur's second time to summit.

The choice loomed: keep going or help the stranded climber.

"We didn't talk about it, we didn't ask, 'What should we do? Should we save him?' " Mazur said. "We just started pitching in and helping him out.

"You don't have a lot of time when someone has been sitting out there all night. We just started helping."

That's not surprising, says a fellow climber.

"He Mazur lives a very centered life, and he just loves what he does," said Leon Watts, with Adventure Outfitters in South Tampa. "It doesn't define him and that shows."

In July, Watts will lead an expedition to China to climb a Himalayan peak. Mazur is organizing the trip.

Although he began his adventures in the Himalayas as an adult, Mazur's interest in both mountaineering and helping others has its roots in his childhood.

Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Mazur grew up in a family of civic-minded parents and a grandfather who fueled his fascination for the mountains with stories of growing up in the Rocky Mountains.

"My dad would bring home people from work around Christmas that he had met that didn't have family or anyone," Mazur said. "They'd always be someone very different from my family and that left an impression on me. ... It opened my eyes."

Nicole Johnson can be reached (727) 445-4162 or njohnson@sptimes.com.

[Last modified January 9, 2007, 23:08:42]


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