Nfld. & Labrador

'He's amazing,' says proud dad of St. John's climber who reaches Everest summit

"This is for you dad. Love, Mark," read a text Derek (Doc) Ballard got from his son early Wednesday morning.

'This is for you dad. Love, Mark,' read a text Derek (Doc) Ballard got from his son early Wednesday

Mark Ballard wears a Newfoundland Growlers tuque during a stop on his Mount Everest climb. (Mark Ballard/Instagram)

Derek (Doc) Ballard woke suddenly in the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

A minute later, he got a simple, but meaningful, text message from his son, Mark, who had at that moment reached the summit of Mount Everest.

"This is for you dad. Love, Mark," it read.

"I was in bed asleep and I knew that he was getting closer, but it could take days because of weather," Ballard said.

He's amazing. I might be biased.- Derek (Doc) Ballard

"So I went to bed last night as normal and I just woke up out of the blue around two o'clock and sat up in my chair, and as soon as I sat down the text came in. It was almost like we were thinking about each other at the same time."

Doc Ballard has been tracking his son's progress up the world's highest mountain.

"It's no hike up Signal Hill," Ballard said with a laugh.

Ballard found inspiration in his father's journey, as Derek (Doc) Ballard learned to deal with losing a leg. (Submitted by Mark Ballard)

The journey to the top is 8,850 metres, or 29,035 feet — and whether a climber makes it doesn't necessarily have to do with skill and dedication.

Severe winter weather conditions can hinder even the most experienced climbers, and in hundreds of cases, means death.

'He's a doer'

Ballard worried about his son, who left for Nepal on April 4 for the weeks-long trek up the mountain, but says he knew he would make it.

"He's amazing," he said. "I might be biased, but he's done it. He's not a dreamer, he's a doer."

Before his trip, Mark Ballard talked about what inspired him to take on such a feat.

His answer was his dad, Doc.

"I lost my leg a couple years ago, a foot and a leg, and he said I've inspired him to do it," an emotional Ballard told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"It's an incredible feat," he said. "It's 29,000 feet, oxygen tanks, blizzard conditions, –50, so it takes an incredible person to be able to do it. And knowing that I inspired him, yeah, it's an emotional time."

There's no doubt Ballard is proud of his son — it's there in his voice when he talks about him.

"Mark is an adrenalin junkie. He's swam with the great white sharks in Australia, he's bungee jumped over Victoria Falls in Africa, he's camped out with the lions," he said.

"He's been to 92 countries and he's 31 years old."

But Ballard said he's proud of more than his son's willingness to take on a challenge.

Mark works with Equinor as the superintendent of international drilling, and was on the team that discovered the deep-sea oil well off the coast of Newfoundland.

Mark Ballard poses with the Newfoundland and Labrador flag on a previous climb. (Submitted by Mark Ballard)

"One of the great things about him that I'm most proud of, this past winter he worked in Africa and he was on a drill rig and he collected his Christmas bonus and he gave it to all of his workers who were poor people in Africa who needed the money. That's the type of kid he is," Ballard said through tears.

"That's the type of man he is. Just great."

The next leg of the journey will be to make it safely down the mountain, and Ballard said he'll be watching his son's location on a GPS tracker he bought for him so he could follow along.

"People have died coming down … They say it's more dangerous coming down," Ballard said.

"But I'm not worried about him at all. Mark is — he's got this planned to the inch."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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