His mission didn’t take flight, but the message sure did

New South Wales Rotarian Ken Hutt set out to paraglide from the top of Mount Everest, and while he didn’t make it, his message to end polio did.

By Julius Dennis, ABC News

Ken’s quest to become the oldest person to paraglide from the top of Mount Everest ended in near tragedy at the end of May.

Accompanied by Queensland University of Technology filmmaker Joe Carter, Ken, 62, set off in April and spent weeks at Base Camp preparing to make the long journey to the pinnacle.

However, the glide was not to be, after Ken developed a life-threatening chest infection at camp two, about 6,400 metres up the world’s highest mountain.

Joe said Ken was forced to turn back.

PICTURED: Ken is reunited with his son Matt at Crampon Point.

“Without the ability to breathe properly in an environment where every gram of oxygen inhaled can mean the difference between surviving and death, he had no choice but to descend.

“Once you get beyond camp two, you cannot get medical aid or be rescued.”

One in seven people don’t survive their attempts at Everest and three people died while the group was on the mountain.

Ken’s mission was to raise the profile of and money for Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign. And while he failed to achieve his gliding goal, his message made it to the peak, delivered by the three remaining members of the group.

But the journey was not without further emergencies for remaining climbers: two members of the group had to be airlifted to safety on the descent, drilling in the dangers the mountain poses.

LEFT:The END Polio Now message made it to the summit of Mount Everest despite the absence of expedition leader Ken Hutt; RIGHT: The team trained for weeks before attempting the climb.

Ken said the mission was not a failure, despite making his way down the mountain in a more conventional way than planned.

“We have already raised more than $250,000 for polio with the expedition, and our thousands of followers on social media around the world have been sending messages of support and relief that our whole team has made it safely down,” he said.

Joe stayed at base camp with Ken’s son after training guides to film Ken for his documentary Fly from Everest.

The filmmaker has a background in making extreme sports films, but said this time was different.

“To have a storyline now where Ken was forced to retreat from the mountain without achieving the summit or the paragliding flight is not necessarily a sad ending – in fact, seeing Ken reunited with his son at base camp, and the knowledge that he has achieved so much for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign and is going home to his family is actually a heart-warming and inspirational way to end our story here,” Joe said.

The documentary will still be produced.