He's climbed the tallest mountain on 6 continents. Everest would make it 7
If successful, Mike Mulrooney will become the first Nova Scotian to tackle the famed 7 summits
Mike Mulrooney is used to looking down on the rest of the world.
The Dartmouth, N.S., man's face glows red from exposure, a testament to the sheer power of the elements at 6,700 metres above sea level.
"I've been up mountains, but this is something else," he said. "It's not only a mountain that's beautiful, it's not only surrounded by giants that are also equally as beautiful, but there's elements ... I've never seen before — gigantic crevasses, lots of amazing light, just the infrastructure of the tents that you see from different teams, watching the Sherpa teams going up the mountain."
But right now, it's about the tiny luxuries — a real bed for the first time in a month — as his team has dropped back to Namche Bazaar, the gateway to Mount Everest, to rest after their latest acclimatization climb.
Soon, they'll set out on another rotation, edging up, down, and then up, up, up to reach an epic 8,848 metres.
A successful summit would also see Mulrooney fulfil a five-year mission to climb the tallest peak on each of the seven continents.
He believes he'd be the first Nova Scotian to do so, a belief backed up by climbing records reviewed by CBC News.
The seed of the idea began in 2015 after he watched a documentary about Everest and decided in his late 30s that is what he wanted to do with his time.
At 42, he said he's glad he didn't wait any longer.
"It's not just about hitting these summits," he said. "It's the people you meet, the places you get to see that you would never get to see otherwise."
It's about filling his life with purpose — the years of focus and training that put him on this mountain, such as the early mornings when his trainer pushed him to run slower, longer, or the nights spent in the tent he set up in his bedroom where he slowly deprived himself of oxygen.
"I started off on some of the smaller of the seven summits [but then] I reached a point where I said, 'Well, if I continue on with my everyday life and just do this as a hobby, Everest is probably not going to be something that's going to be achievable," said Mulrooney.
"I wouldn't have put in the time, I wouldn't have put in the effort, I wouldn't have positioned myself correctly for it. So, I said, 'Let's go all in.'"
Becoming a 7 summiter
It's not just the physical preparations, there are also financial preparations. He spent 16 years working in the energy sector in Europe and saved up for this pursuit, estimating he spent about $500,000 to complete the seven summits.
Mulrooney said that he purposely stayed away from sponsorships or charity climbs, because "I find too many people finance their own climbs under the guise of charity."
Seven summiters are an elite group of mountaineers — just 416 people have stood at the top of those seven peaks, according to a 2016 list compiled by 7 summits online.
Among them are 22 Canadians.
The challenges of climbing Everest
Conquering Everest, however, is a challenge unlike the other mountains; it's about 1,890 metres higher than Mulrooney's second highest summit — Argentina's Aconcagua.
That's why Mulrooney, his team and his guides have set aside two months to make the ascent. Since April 7, they have made several climbs, traversing the beautiful and deadly Khumbu Icefall, and getting almost as far as Camp 3.
With each climb, Mulrooney said he feels his body adjusting to the thinning of the air.
"The process of just being on the mountain is, in my opinion, about half of the effort," he said. "Yes you're going to be doing exercise, you're going to be climbing, you're going to be using ropes, you're going to be doing all of it — but waking up in a tent, making sure that you've got water prepared, making sure that everything is set, making sure that you're taking care of yourself … you're not waking up in a hotel unfortunately with a buffet."
'Get it done'
He has a team at home as well, cheering him on. His father has Lewy body dementia, but Mulrooney said that's made him all the more supportive of him doing things while he has the chance.
"In moments of clarity, basically he tells me, 'Listen, this is something that you've decided to do — go and do it, get it done.'"
And Mulrooney plans to, although he can't say what he wants to do afterwards.
Instead, he's just taking it one day at a time, each step bringing him closer to the top of the world.