It might take me a day or so to get back up to speed about whatâ€™s happening in West Virginia. Iâ€™ve spent the past four days in Utah at the midwinter Board of Directors meeting of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.
My job there was to participate in a 4-hour Executive Committee meeting and to record the minutes for the 9-hour Board meeting. One of the tripâ€™s perks was an opportunity to attend Outdoor Retailers Associationâ€™s winter trade show at the Salt Palace. Wow! From winter camping to ice climbing to skiing, the show was a giant toy box for outdoor lovers. Another nice perk was a gourmet dinner at the Snowbird ski resort just outside Salt Lake City. There I met Guillermo â€œWillieâ€ Benegas, a mountain climber and mountaineering guide from Argentina who has reached the summit of Mt. Everest seven times. He said the most disappointing thing about climbing the worldâ€™s highest peak is that the exertion, the altitude and the weather keep most climbers from spending more than a few minutes at the top.
â€œAfter 10 or 15 minutes, you have to head down. If you donâ€™t, youâ€™re putting yourself in danger,â€ he explained.
On one magic day, however, Willieâ€™s duties as a guide required him to make his ascent early in the morning and come down with the members of his expedition who reached the peak last.
â€œI got to spend 3 Â½ hours up there,â€ he said with a grin. â€œIt was fantastic!â€
How does this relate to hunting and fishing? It doesnâ€™t, really. But it does have a West Virginia connection.
Turns out that Willie spent nearly three months here climbing on Pendleton Countyâ€™s Seneca Rocks and on the Endless Wall of Fayette Countyâ€™s New River Gorge.
â€œI was dating a New River rafting guide at the time,â€ he said in his lilting Spanish accent. â€œSheâ€™d spend her days on the river, and Iâ€™d spend my days on the cliffs. I have good memories of West Virginia.â€