Text by Tesuhiko Endo
When adventurer, entrepreneur, and author Bo Parfet began his quest to climb the Seven Summits, he was a 230-pound corporate financier working 100-hour weeks in New York City and subsisting off a steady diet of cheeseburgers and coca-cola.
“I literally stopped at a sporting goods store on my way to the airport (en route to Kilimanjaro) and bought whatever gear I thought I needed,” he told ADVENTURE while in Manhattan for a presentation at the Explorer’s Club.
This doesn’t seem like the best approach for climbing any mountain, much less the highest in Africa. And of course, it wasn’t. But Parfet survived the experience (barely) and, in doing so, caught a climbing bug that would take him around the world in search of the highest peeks he could get his crampons on. Check out all his high altitude hi-jinks in his book Die Trying.
“People thought I was nuts,” he admits. But Parfet said that such reactions to his habit of tempting fate on high mountains only encouraged him. “The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly,” he offered while flipping through a brief slide show he was preparing to show to the people who were eagerly awaiting his presentation.
Despite a penchant from dropping somewhat grandiose quotes into conversation, Parfet is not your typical self-aggrandizing mountain climber. “I’m not Lance Armstrong, I’m not Ed Viesturs, I’m just a normal guy who was really unhappy with his life.” He explained. “Anybody can make a change in their lives, but it’s a bit like jumping off a cliff–the cliff of change, I call it–you come up to the edge and look down, then you get scared and back off. What most people don’t realize is that going back and forth is usually more painful than actually making the jump.”
Luckily for Parfet, he took the plunge and although it has meant its fair share of pain (food poisoning on Kilimanjaro, the flu on Everest, and enough altitude-related aches and pains to hobble a mountain goat) he has loved every step of it. A good illustration of this is that one of his favorite climbs was Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid), in Papua, New Guinea. This expedition involved dodging civil war, eating roasted rats, being smuggled through a heavily guarded gold mine, and handing out a small trust fund’s worth of bribe money.
Despite the difficulties, or indeed, because of them, he has also always made a point of giving back.
He may have come a long way, but Parfet isn’t slowing down just yet. When he’s not at his day job running his own real-estate company, he is planning the first ascent (and subsequent first descent on skis) of an unnamed mountain in the Himalaya in 2010. It’s pretty busy schedule, but he seems to prefer it that way. “One of my favorite quotes,” he said just as our time was running out, “is from Mahatma Ghandi. It goes: 'Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.' ”