OGDEN -- Will Calton and Tom Burton suffered through avalanches, freezing temperatures, two months of patience-testing delays and a mountain that challenged them in ways they'd never faced.
But the few minutes spent at the top of Mount Everest were worth it all.
"It's what I imagined the Himalayas would be like," said Burton, recalling standing on top of the world's highest mountain. "All the clouds were below us, and all the peaks coming out of the clouds. Just spectacular."
Calton must take his friend's word about the glory of the moment. He had a concussion and broke two ribs in an accident on the descent. He doesn't remember reaching the summit.
He's fine now, and both are back home in Ogden, laughing about it.
"He tripped me," Calton joked.
Burton, sitting in the living room of his home with Calton and their wives, shot back that, "he was ahead of me. He's always ahead of me."
Their adventure halfway across the world started with a joke, too. As their plane flew into Nepal on March 25, Calton looked out the window at the towering sight of the world's highest mountain, turned to Burton and remarked, "I've seen bigger."
But all jokes aside, Calton wasn't going to let Everest intimidate him. He and Burton had been training for almost a year for this. They had climbed the highest peaks of other continents together. They were confident.
"I kept saying it was just another mountain, bigger than most," Calton said. "I knew we could do it. If you put one foot in front of the other, eventually you get to the top of the mountain."
They touched down and made the trek to base camp at 17,500 feet above sea level. The weeklong hike there was beautiful, Calton recalled, one that took them through lush green forests and hillsides full of flowers.
But once they arrived at base camp, the desolate rock and ice looked much less inviting.
There they met their partners, team leader Jeff Reynolds, of Santa Fe, N.M., and Rob Cassady, from Colorado. Burton and Calton signed up with them because they were equally experienced and made for a small, personal group where the Ogden friends could have a say.
But as they made the steady trek up the mountain, they soon realized there was one big factor they had no say in: Everest's fickle weather.
"It changes like that," Burton said, snapping his fingers. "It will be a beautiful, sunny day and then clouds roll in, it's snowing on you or gets windy. I guess that's one of the reasons Everest is that dangerous."
There are no less than six avalanches in the area every day, Reynolds wrote in a dispatch from the mountain. They would wake up -- sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the night -- to the sounds of crashing snow.
One such avalanche buried their gear, which they had to dig out. Another buried their tents when they weren't in them, and they spent a night at a camp high up on the mountain in the abandoned tents of a climbing team that went home early.
Above the base camp, there are four established camps on the way to the top of Everest, each about 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the last. Climbers make their way to each one incrementally, stay the night, and then return to base camp before attempting to make it to the next camp up so that they can acclimate to the elevation changes.
After a month, Burton and Calton were ready to go all the way to the top -- about 29,000 feet above sea level. But each time they set a date, thinking there would be a clear window of good weather, the wind and snow blew in and dashed their hopes.
The wait was frustrating, Calton said. "Having your days set up, after being there for 50 to 60 days, suddenly to have to wait another week to go, and there's not much to do at base camp."
Then, nearing the end of May, the two had their opportunity. It was a narrow window: just one day.
About 150 other climbers tried for the top the same day. Luckily for Burton and Calton, and thanks to the small size of their quickly moving group, they were near the front of the line that was creating a bottleneck on the mountain.
By 8 a.m. May 19, they were on top of the world.
Burton had dreamed of Everest since he was a boy. Once it became a reality, both men had come to respect its sheer size, like nothing they had ever encountered in all their globetrotting adventures.
"A lot of pain and suffering and being patient for 50 to 60 days, but the four or five minutes on the summit makes up for that," Burton said.
They took home some rocks from the summit, where it was 10 degrees below zero, and received scarves from the Sherpa who helped them up the mountain.
But the experience is the real souvenir, Burton said.
Calton jokes that the mountain bucked him off on their way down, but Burton has nothing but respect for his friend.
Still, the weather wasn't quite done with them. Returning to the U.S., they found out during a layover in Washington, D.C., that their flight to Salt Lake City was canceled and they would get home about a day later than planned.
They finally returned to their families and life at only a few thousand feet above sea level on June 2. And the next day, Burton was out climbing.
His wife, Lynne, joked:
"No moss grows on this rolling stone."