Climbing Mount Everest for polio

Past District Governor Joe Pratt on Mount Everest. Photo courtesy of Joe Pratt

By Joe Pratt, past governor of District 7870 (parts of New Hampshire and Vermont, USA)

In October of 2011, my wife and I along with another Rotarian couple traveled to Pakistan to participate in a National Immunization Day (NID). The trip came about because of a Pakistani Group Study Exchange team visit to my Rotary district and the subsequent invitation to visit their country.  

Despite the State Department’s warnings against travel to Pakistan as well as an outbreak of dengue fever, we decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At this point I had been training for my climb on Mount Everest for eight months and it was the consensus of our group, in particular Steve Puderbaugh, that the climb be dedicated to raising funds to help eradicate polio. 

When the idea was presented to our Pakistani Rotarian hosts, it was enthusiastically received. Upon our return to the United States, we promoted the goal of US$29,030 which equaled $1 per foot for the height of the mountain, 100 percent of which would go to the polio eradication effort. The idea caught on in the local community, where a significant number of checks were received from non-Rotarians.  

My climb began on 10 April in Kathmandu, Nepal, where I joined the Seven Summits Club — a Russian expedition. We then flew to Lhasa, Tibet, to approach Everest from the north side. After five weeks of training and acclimatization on the mountain, we waited for a weather window to make the summit attempt. 

That attempt began on 15 May. I reached the top of Everest on 20 May at 9:30 a.m. In my 25 years of climbing experience, this was by far the greatest challenge. I owe my successful summit in great part to the professionalism of the Seven Summits Club and particularly to the skill, strength and tenacity of the Sherpas that supported the expedition. Most of all I am humbled and grateful for the benevolence the mountain showed me. 

Since returning to New Hampshire, I have been making presentations to Rotary clubs in my district in order to continue to raise awareness for the polio campaign and to reach the goal of $29,030. For more information, contact me at

5 thoughts on “Climbing Mount Everest for polio

  1. Congrats PDG Joe Pratt ….your spirit of keep on keeping on is contagious….am also part of TRF program of GSE to Minnesota last 1999…….hope we can also climb with you in spirit…keep up and God bless!


  2. Joe, I appreciate you sharing this amazing story. The Group Study Exchange scores another victory for Rotary International. It’s a shame, The Rotary Foundation decided to discontinue funding the Group Study Exchange in the traditional form, in favor of Vocational Training Teams under Future Vision. Through the power of the average Rotarian, telling their “Rotary Moment ” stories, the true value of Rotary is realized as we continue to strive for Peace through Service.. Joe Hagedorn, DG, 6580.


  3. Pingback: Nuevo mensaje de “Voces de Rotary”… « Rotary Club de Lleida

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