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Author Topic: Californian Tries to Become Youngest to Scale the ‘Seven Summits’  (Read 4575 times)

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Climbing the World By Oliver Libaw, abc news.com
 Original article can be found here:  http://more.abcnews.go.com/sections/us/dailynews/climber020104.html  

"Jan. 7 - Once he set his mind on one of mountaineering's most coveted goals, Jeff Mathy loaded up an 80-pound backpack, got a 120-pound sled to drag behind him, and headed for the nearest hill to train.    
Mathy doesn't just want to climb the "Seven Summits," the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. At 23, he wants to enter the record books as the youngest person to accomplish the dangerous feat. So far, he's half way to his goal. Mathy set off for his next stop on New Year's Day when he left his home in California for Antarctica. There, he plans to climb one of the most remote peaks on Earth: Vinson Massif, a desolate, 16,067-foot glacier-encrusted mountain at the bottom of the world. The average temperature: minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.    

Fewer than 400 people have stood atop Mount Vinson, which is located about 600 miles from the South Pole. (Magellan Geographix)  
When Mathy set off for his latest journey, his equipment weighed more than his 155-pound frame. Training six days a week, he has spent long hours doing everything from hauling a wagon behind him to marathon Stairmaster sessions with a full 80-pound pack. "It's kind of like running a marathon every day for two or three weeks," he says of the effort needed to conquer the peaks.  

Only a handful of people have achieved the Seven Summits. About 1,000 people have scaled Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, and fewer than 100 have climbed all the Seven Summits, according to Everest News, a mountaineering Web site. Those who have say it is a remarkable experience.  "It's a new way to discover the world," says Bernard Voyer, an internationally renowned climber who finished the Seven Summits in December.  

The Accidental Climber  
Mathy says he did not consider attempting the Seven Summits record when he climbed the first peak in the group, Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro, in 1999 when he was 20.  "It was something that I was doing for fun," he says. "Then the stars lined up." He went on to climb Acongagua, South America's tallest mountain, in February 2001, but it was only after summiting McKinley that he thought he had a chance at the record. "I decided, you know what? It's something that I'm going to go for full time."  

Though Mathy paid for his early climbs himself, he secured sponsorship from Lipton Tea to pay the estimated $150,000 cost to climb the four remaining peaks. "Jeff's a highly unique case," says Gordon Janow, a climber and director of programs at Alpine Ascents, which organizes expeditions around the world. "He found a particular love and focus in the mountains."  

In some ways, Mathy is an unlikely mountaineer. His first hike - a Boy Scout expedition in middle school up a Southern California peak called "Little Jimmy" - was less than inspiring.  
"At first I hated it," he recalls. "My pack weighed about as much as I did." But almost without realizing it, the hike got him hooked. "A couple weeks later I was out doing it again …. The more I did it the more I learned the tricks of the trade - how to have fun," Mathy says. As an anthropology major at the University of California, Davis, Mathy climbed as a hobby to keep himself fit. After graduating, he worked as a financial consultant for a year, and then started climbing full time.  

The Seven Summits - A Mountaineer’s Dream  
The Seven Summits have become one of mountaineering's most coveted achievements, many in the sport say.  "It's kind of like the grand slam of climbing," Mathy says. "It's within the reach of amateurs and something that professionals respect." It has captured the imagination of climbers ever since the wealthy mountaineer Dick Bass conceived of the challenge and completed it in 1985.  

Some traditionalists dismissed Bass' accomplishment as somewhat contrived, but since his book on the experience was published, countless climbers have dreamed of looking down from the top of each continent.  
"What's more perfect than the top?" Janow asks. "If you run the marathon it's just an arbitrary number. But this is a physical goal that's right there in sight."  Nepal's Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet, is considered the crown jewel of climbing. The rest of the Seven Summits include: 22,840-foot Aconcagua, in Argentina; Alaska's 20,320-foot Mount McKinley (also known as Denali); 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; 18,510-foot Mount Elbrus, in the European portion of Russia; and Vinson Massif, in Antarctica.  

What’s Number Seven? Depends Who You Ask  
The identity of the last summit depends on how you define the seventh continent. Some climbers insist it includes only Australia, and that the seventh summit is Australia's 7,300-foot Mount Kosciuszko. Others insist that the islands of Southeast Asia are part of the continent, and point to Indonesia's 16,023-foot Carstensz Pyramid as the seventh summit.  

Everest News lists Japanese climber Naoki Ishikawa as the youngest to complete the Seven Summits with Kosciusko, but not Carstenz, at age 23. Mathy will climb both to secure his place in the record books.  

If all goes according to plan, the 23-year-old will finish the Antarctic climb by Jan. 22, then climb Mount Everest between March and May, Mount Elbrus in July, and finally Carstensz in September. He expects to turn 24 just before finishing, making him two years younger than the current record holder, Louisiana native Joby Ogwyn, who was 26 when he finished the Seven Summits, including Carstensz.  

The peaks range greatly in difficulty and style of ascent. Mount McKinley is Mathy's favorite climb so far. "It's just a classic Alaskan climb," he says of the 17-day expedition. Compared to McKinley and Everest, Kosciuszko is little more than a hill.  

"You've got everything from the easiest - Mount Kosciuszko, where you can picnic on the top - to the tallest mountain the world," says Mathy.  

Jaime Vinals, a Guatemalan climber who completed the Seven Summits last year, agrees.  

"[It] lets us experience all types of climates, technical levels of mountaineering, environments and different cultures," he says.  

For Mathy, one of the greatest challenges involved in the Seven Summits may be the wait to set out for the next climb.  
"It's going to be a great adventure," he said two days before heading to Antarctica. "I can barely sleep sometimes thinking about the climbs."  

Original article can be found here: http://more.abcnews.go.com/sections/us/dailynews/climber020104.html
« Last Edit: Mar 6 2002, 15:22 by 7summits »
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