Utahn says Friday the 13th his ‘luckiest day’ after summiting Mount Everest on third attempt

Posted at 7:33 PM, May 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-29 16:00:39-04

ALPINE, Utah -- Standing at the top of the world on the summit of Mount Everest, a Utah man broke multiple records, including being the first American in three years to summit Everest and becoming the first person with two artificial knees to make the climb.

It was Greg Paul’s third attempt to summit Mount Everest, and he did it Friday, May 13th, a date he now deems his luckiest day!

On Saturday morning he was still unpacking, having arrived at his home on Matterhorn Drive in Alpine earlier in the week.  Paul got a huge welcome home after his trip to Mount Everest, saying it was unlike anyone else’s.

“I experienced the ‘Full Monty’ of Everest,” Paul said.

Paul made it to the top, with every battle facing him until the last climb. Right before his team was ready to take off, a whiteout storm swept in front of them.

“The expedition leader is telling the guide, ‘I'm leaving it up to you, I don't want any members dying!’ And you hear that word, and you're looking around, and you're like, ‘Yeah, this is the place where bodies are within 10 feet of me, covered by snow.’”

This was Paul's third attempt to summit Mount Everest. He tried in 2012 and reached camp two at 22,500 feet, but the weather forced his team to turn back. Then in 2014, he reached base camp just as the deadliest avalanche on record at Mount Everest happened, killing 16 people. He was forced to return home.

So, this time, he was determined to get to the top.

“I was really worried they would turn us around, and this would be ‘three strikes you’re out', not ‘third time is a charm,'" he said.

But his hard work, determination and prayers worked like a charm. They climbed through the storm and reached the death zone, the term for the area at 29,000 feet, and they arrived on the unluckiest day: Friday the 13th.

“And we were all, ‘Yeah, let's just get up there,'" Paul said. "'We will take our superstitions and lay them aside.’ Now Friday the 13th is my luckiest day! I'm still basking in exuberance.”

The treacherous journey down was also a climb he prepared for, but it was during his descent he felt the most protected by "Her."

“Normally, you think of Everest as a menacing, dangerous place," he said. "And, somehow, I felt like it was truly what the Sherpas call it. The Mother Goddess of the Earth, and I was like just part of it. Part of Her. Part of the mountain.”

It was an emotional journey for Paul, who said he was nearly scared to death at times. Other times he felt relieved and happy while taking in all "Her" extraordinary beauty, and then humbled by Her greatness, and Her ability to rule and protect.

“It's surreal," he said. "I am still pinching myself all the time.”

The numbness from the near-frostbite in his fingers and toes he received is reminder, though, that it was real and he did summit Earth’s highest point.