Making his first the biggest

Paul Morrow, principal at Marina High School, had never left the United States.

That all changed last week when Morrow, 57, left to climb Mt. Everest.

This journey will mark the end of reading about the world and the beginning of seeing it, he said.

"I can tell you a lot about Huntington Beach, but I can't tell you much about the rest of the world," said Morrow, a 30-year Huntington Beach resident. "To me, I hope it's the beginning of many experiences. But right now, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me to get out and experience the world."

Morrow plans to hike to the Base Camp on the side of the mountain. He plans to share his experience as he goes on his blog at It will take him about 60 hours of hiking.

Morrow will have a tour guide. Originally, he was going to go with two Australian women, but they rescheduled their trip, according to his blog, which he updated April 14 from Hong Kong before heading to Bangladesh, then Nepal.

"One day, I'd love to get to the top," he said. "You could actually see the curvature of the earth from there."

Along his journey, Morrow will rest up at tea houses in various Nepalese villages.

"I'm going to see what normal life is for people who don't live in Huntington Beach — what it's like to live in Nepal and to live in a village," he said. "I'm sure it's different from here, from having Direct TV access, television, Starbucks and a gas station on every corner. How do they live, what are their thoughts, beliefs and history?"

There are parallels between Mt. Everest and Morrow's life.

"There's a lot of tragedy up on that mountain, and there's also a lot of conquest and excitement and new ventures and new perspective," he said.

His mother, whom he refers to as his best friend and whom he spent years taking care of, recently passed away. Then his brother had a heart attack and another brother had a cancer scare, he said. Both brothers have overcome their health obstacles.

Morrow was also involved in a car accident about a year ago when a drunk driver hit him and his assistant principal, Jeanne Ellis, while on the freeway. The accident left Morrow, a skilled surfer, unable to do the sport he enjoyed.

"I came pretty close to not being able to do anything," he said. "It's time for me to do something for me and see that joy that comes from exploring our world."

To compensate for his inability to continue surfing, Morrow began hiking and exploring the local mountains. Then a friend, Dan Diecidue, who hiked to Mt. Everest about a year ago, would not stop talking about it and how it had opened his eyes to the world.

"I thought, 'Wow! That's something I need to see too for the joy of doing it,'" Morrow said.

Diecidue said the trip is perfect for Morrow.

"It's a great way to just kind of just strip down yourself and realize what's important by seeing what's important to other people and to experience other places," Diecidue said. "It's an awesome trip. It's very extreme, but very humbling and it's a beautiful place."

All the preparation for his trip was new, including getting his passport, taking the necessary shots and preparing for lower oxygen levels in the mountains.

Morrow, who is due back in America on May 1, has been sleeping in an altitude bed he rented to prepare himself for the high elevation he will experience on the mountain.

During his 10-hour layover in Hong Kong, Morrow left the airport on his own to see the city, he wrote on his blog April 15. He was pleased with people's willingness to go out of their way to help him. He noted how different it was to be a tourist for the first time in his life.

Morrow said he hopes his climb will prove inspirational to the Marina community.

"I think it says something to our kids," he said. "My school is my family. It says to kids you can come back from adversity and you can set your mind on achieving your goal and you can do it."

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