Jeff shows the Nyloxin™ flag inside his tent at High Camp after reaching the summit of Mount Aconcagua. “Again I thank our sponsor, Nyloxin™ for believing in JGCAF and a climber like me with RA,” said Jeff.
Jeff celebrated the power of Nyloxin™ at the summit of Mount Aconcagua on February 13, 2012, with clear skies and cold air. “I thank CEO Rik Deitsch, Nyloxin™ and the Nutra Pharma Corporation for standing behind me. With their sponsorship, we are granting wishes and fulfilling dreams of children with arthritis,” said Jeff.
To reach the summit of Aconcagua, it took Jeff’s team 12 hours round-trip climbing from High Camp at 19,500 to the summit at 22,841 feet and back down to High Camp to spend the night. They left at 4 am and returned at 4 pm, covering more than 6,000 feet of climbing and descending. It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating day reaching the top of the tallest mountain in the Americas and the highest outside the Himalaya!
A message from Jeff . . .
Yesterday, my son, Rawley, and I went out for lunch after school. He told me when he grows up he wants to go to med school and be a blood doctor.
I responded, “I believe you can do anything you want in life, and I am 100 percent behind you.”
Jeff and Rawley had a great day together yesterday
As I am about to board my flight to Argentina, I cannot help but reflect upon all those in my life who are 100 percent behind me. To our staff, board members, dream board members, donors, supporters, kids, parents, sponsors and all those who have been a part of making JGCAF what it is today, you have each helped us in your own way.
This special day makes me thankful for two people in particular, who have greatly believed in me and our mission at JGCAF. The first is my Dad, John Gottfurcht, who is determined to make sure that kids who have arthritis can strive for anything, despite their physical challenges. He has first hand knowledge in this; he taught me exactly how practical dreamers can achieve impossible objectives.
The second person I want to thank is our sponsor CEO, Rik Deitsch, of Nutra Pharma, makers of Nyloxin™. He not only believes in me and JGCAF, but the humanity he has shown in allowing me to follow my dream is humbling.
Thanks Dad and thanks Rik and thanks to each and everyone of you for making JGCAF great!!! I only hope all the kids we help realize that JGCAF believes in them, and their dreams today will become tomorrow’s realities. We believe in them 100 percent.
An Interview with Jeffrey Gottfurcht
In just over two months, Jeff Gottfurcht will be climbing Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua (22,841 feet), the tallest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemispheres. Today Jeff spent some time answering our questions about his upcoming expedition, life after Everest and what’s going on at the Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation.
It has been over 5 months since you reached the summit of Mount Everest, (and were the first person in the world with RA to do so!) What has life been like for you since your return?
Magical. 150 days after being on top of the world, the victory is still so sweet. To fulfill one of my biggest dreams since I was a young boy is really rewarding, particularly since I was unable to complete my first attempt at Everest the year before. My wonderfully loving family and all the supporters of our foundation help keep the celebration alive each and every day.
Is your achievement of climbing Everest somewhat surreal for you now?
Absolutely. Often when I think about being on Everest and reaching that summit, it feels more like a dream rather than a reality. I connect often with my Everest climbing partners, and we look at photos and videos of the expedition to relive the challenges and triumphs – particularly the summit ordeal. It gives us all real perspective on our experience.
How do others react to your accomplishment of climbing the world’s tallest mountain?
Everest is a mythical place, and climbing it successfully is a crowning achievement. Everyone I meet seems to be inspired by it or has a lot of questions about the mountain. Some even joke about my success in good nature. One person asked me how she could be certain it was really me behind the oxygen mask up at that summit. Another said it was a good thing I lifted my goggles near the summit, so an official eye scan could be done to prove it was me up there!
I wonder if people have actually fabricated reaching the summit of Everest?
There are many people who attempt to climb Everest, but can’t make it. Sadly a small number of these people present other climbers’ photos of the summit as their own, to make it appear as though they reached the top. With the oxygen and face gear on, you can’t always tell who’s behind it.
How long did it take for you to feel well-rested after returning from Nepal?
Well, I lost 25 lbs on Everest; it was a grueling two months. When I safely returned home, my RA instantly kicked in as my immune system decided it was a good time to take a vacation. I got very sick with a severe upper respiratory infection, and it took me about a month to really feel better and get my energy back. I had acclimated to being in such high altitudes over two months. Then we climbed down the mountain in four days, and I returned home immediately. My body was not adjusted to the new environment at home. I had a hard time eating regular foods too, at first. But after about 6 weeks back at home, I felt great and was able to start working out again. I have gained 15 lbs. of muscle back. As part of my training, I go on massive carbohydrate binges. I eat a giant bowl of pasta and a baguette of bread every day! Starting around the second week of January, just before my Aconcagua climb, I will load up on carbs again.
How lucky you are that you can eat all those carbs we all crave, but without worrying about weight gain!
Can you tell us a little bit about what motivates you to climb the Seven Summits - each of the tallest mountains on the seven continents?
I was born with a purpose to climb and to bring awareness to what we are doing at the foundation. My will to win is constant. I was told, years ago by my doctors that I could not physically climb mountains due to my RA. But practical dreamers can achieve impossible objectives, and there are three keys to making these dreams come true. Perseverance, perseverance, and perseverance.
You have climbed 2 of the Seven Summits already – Mount Elbrus in Russia (18,510 feet) and the tallest mountain the world, Mount Everest in Nepal (29,035 feet). How does it feel to have these five challenging summits ahead of you?
I don’t think about it like that – having five daunting mountains in front of me. Rather I think about it as having five wonderful experiences ahead of me. These five challenges are simply stepping-stones to something much greater. Think of it like applying a combination to a safe. Every little click is an advance to reaching your ultimate goal. I realize there will come a time when I won’t be able to climb any more, so I take these challenges one day at a time. And every day I’m grateful for what I am physically able to do.
Since Everest is King of all mountains, do you think climbing Aconcagua will be any less exciting than Everest?
Absolutely, 100 percent no. Each of these mountains offers different challenges, habitats, weather patterns and obstacles. There are four major differences between climbing Aconcagua and Everest. 1. Geography, or the physical location and the distance to travel. 2. Topography, or the make up of the mountains. The Andes are so different than the Himalayas in many ways. 3. The challenge of the timing. As the Aconcagua climb takes place in January, this month is often the worst time of the year for people with RA and other autoimmune diseases. Every January I seem to get whatever virus is going around, though I will use extra caution to try to avoid it this year. 4. Window of opportunity. When you’re on Everest you can wait many weeks in a holding pattern for bad weather to clear up enough to safely get to the top. The Aconcagua climb is time specific and not as flexible. You really have only 21 days, so if the weather conditions are not suitable, you just have to turn around and go home.
What kind of training have you been doing for your upcoming Aconcagua climb?
It is the same exact regimen as it was for Everest – interval training that includes intensive running, hiking and rock climbing. This recipe for success worked for Everest, so I do not want to change it. Right now I am training three days per week. Around the first week in December, I will increase that to five days per week. I’m fitter than ever before because of the rigorous conditioning I got on Everest. So now I’m just maintaining my level of fitness.
Do you ever not feel like training?
Yes, every day of my life. But my wife and kids are watching, so I simply cannot stop. Failure is not an option.
The photos of Aconcagua are spectacular, and it will be interesting to compare your photos from the two summits. Since you have climbed many times, how would describe what it feels like to stand on top of a mountain and look down on the earth?
You feel small standing on top of these mountains. It puts your life into perspective. We as a human race are really small compared to the universe. It makes me wish there wasn’t as much suffering among humans as there seems to be.
Breathtaking scenery of Aconcagua
While on Everest you had Sherpa, Danuru, as your guide. What type of assistance will you have on Aconcagua?
This climb will be much different as there are no Sherpas. Climbers must carry their own gear. We take rotations to drop off equipment at Base Camps.
What type of equipment will you be hauling up that mountain?
We’ll be hauling tents, food, water, pots for cooking, sleeping bags, climbing and communications equipment. I am renting a state-of-the-art satellite phone and PDA.
So will you use your satellite to stay in touch with the foundation?
Yes! I’ll be communicating daily to provide updates about my progress en route. You can follow along right here on our blog to track my expedition and look at photos.
Does Aconcagua require the use of oxygen at the higher levels?
No. The death zone is at 26,000 feet, where humans fall apart on a cellular level. But Aconcagua is below 23,000 feet, so I don’t need oxygen during this climb. During the second rotation at Base Camp 3 on Everest (24,000 feet), I slept without the use of oxygen with no problems. If you cannot do without an oxygen tank at 24,000 feet you will never make it to the top of Everest.
I have read that each year several climbers fail to follow the proper protocols to acclimate properly to the altitude changes on Aconcagua. Some actually perish during the process. Do you suppose these climbers believe the Aconcagua climb is less challenging than it actually is?
People get sick and die on mountains everywhere in the world for many reasons. Altitude is just a different animal, and it tends to knock people down. There are some factors you cannot control while climbing mountains, such as weather conditions. But you can control your own acclimation to altitude. It’s a matter of letting the body catch up to the changes. People run into trouble when they are inflexible and refuse to listen to their bodies. It’s really a simple philosophy; if you don’t feel good, go down. Climbers who are sick and insist on going up anyway are risking their lives. It’s really quite selfish. If you get sick on a mountain, go home and come back another time, as I did with Everest. I have an amazing wife and three wonderful children to live for, and I keep that foremost in mind while climbing.
I’d imagine that most who don’t reach the summit of any given mountain do not return to try again such as you did. What motivated you to go back to Everest?
I refused to be cast down. I can be pushed down 9 times but you can bet I will get up every time and reach my goal the10th time.
Are you climbing Aconcagua on your own?
Greg Vernovage, the expedition leader from my two Everest climbs will be with me on Aconcagua. He’s a great guy and an expert climber.
It will be summer in the Southern Hemisphere during your climb. What type of weather are you expecting during your climb and at the summit?
Despite the fact that it’s summer there then, at times the weather will be brutal. It is notoriously cold and windy near the top of Aconcagua, as it is so close to Chile and the South Pacific Ocean and bad weather is unavoidable. To reach the summit, we will climb in the dark as we did on Everest. This way we will be able to see the expansive views from the top as the sun comes up, and get back down to safety before darkness returns.
Are you concerned about experiencing frozen retinas and temporary blindness as you experienced on Everest during this trip?
No. This time I will not remove my goggles while climbing in subzero conditions, for any reason. I do not care to ever experience that again!
Words cannot even describe my gratitude. These climbs would not be possible without the support we’ve received from Nutra Pharma Chairman and CEO, Rik Deitsch, and his entire team. Their sponsorship of my climbs and support of rheumatoid arthritis and our foundation are beyond grand. It is rare to come in contact with people who wholeheartedly support what you are doing. They have proven to be true champions in helping me succeed and support children with Juvenile Arthritis.
During your training and your Everest climb, you used Nyloxin™ to help you manage your joint pain from RA. Will you be using Nyloxin™ while climbing Aconcagua as well?
Absolutely! I use it throughout my training now as well, as it is a perpetual part of my life.
How exactly does Nyloxin™ help you?
It really helps with the pain and eliminates the need for me to chew on ibuprofen like M&Ms®. Without a pain reliever like Nyloxin™, where I have no side effects, I could not climb mountains. Plus I have the confidence that Nyxolin™ is there to help, should I have a flare up during the expedition. This drug allows me to concentrate on reaching my goals, rather than worry about managing my pain.
Can you share with our readers what physical challenges a person with RA has while climbing mountains that a perfectly healthy person may not experience?
My knees don’t work as well as a healthy person’s knees. I have some pain with every step, even on a good day. Combine that pain with the exhaustion that comes from having RA and climbing mountains, and it really is tough.
Having said that, how can it possibly be that you continue to climb mountains?
My greatest weapon is my will to achieve; it’ stronger than my RA. I figure that I can just spend my days in bed watching TV, being depressed and eating junk, or I can eat healthy, climb mountains, stay fit as long as I can and help children with juvenile arthritis. Unfortunately RA sometimes prevents people from staying physically active. Therefore they cannot work out their most important muscle – the heart. When my son was very young, someone asked me, “With your RA, why don’t you just stay home and sit and read to your son, rather than be so physically active?”
I answered, “Because I’d much rather get out there and experience those things with my son, firsthand, that are described in those books. The point of life is to experience it, and right now I am able to do so.”
Since your Everest journey you have fulfilled several dreams for children with Juvenile Arthritis (JA). Pure joy is the apparent theme in the photos of the children who have had wishes granted. What is that like for you – to make a dream come true?
Extraordinary and, ironically, dream-like. The ability to positively effect a stranger’s life is a wonderful gift. These children and their families feel happy, appreciated and loved. Given all the challenges they face, it’s so special to see them experiencing this much joy. It’s the reason we do what we do.
Can you tell us what’s new at the Jeffrey Gottfurcht Children’s Arthritis Foundation?
Our foundation has expanded into its second year, and our support is rapidly growing. Before we were fulfilling one dream per month and now we are up to two dreams per month. Our mandate is to try to fulfill dreams in every single state. Also, we have gained the support of the Detroit Lions NFL team. This is a fantastic partnership, and we are humbled by their support. Every day here at the foundation is a spectacular one, because it’s all positive.
How can our readers get involved in the foundation?
They can sign up for our newsletter to keep up with our dreams and read the latest news by sending an email to email@example.com and asking to subscribe. What we need most is financial support to make more dreams come true. Supporters can pledge money toward the Aconcagua climb, so much per foot climbed. We are looking for volunteers as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank all of our donors, supporters, partners and followers. I say thank you from a group of kids whose voices are not always heard in the world of public awareness. But your support truly helps makes dreams come true for these wonderful children. Thanks for believing in me and our wonderful mission.
We are so pleased to have so many great and influential dream board members a part of JGCAF. From Lisa and Laura Ling, to Academy Award wiinngin Hollywood producer Ron Schwary, to the wonderful pediatric rheumatogists Dr. Reiff and Dr. Marzan at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and Dr. Kahn at NYU Medical Center. Dr. Kahn, Dr. Dave, and Dr. Lebowitz have also been very instrumental in helping our cause. All of our members and supporters each give so much to helping us meet our goals and bring awareness to what we are doing at JGCAF.
Jeff, thank you for your insight. You continue to inspire your supporters and the world at large. We are all looking forward to your safe return and hearing all about your Aconcagua adventure.