The Seventh Summit
On May 22nd, 2018, WVU alumnus Brian Cheripko and his partner, Geneva Keaton, made the final push to the summit of Mount Everest – the last piece of an 8-year journey to the top of each of the Seven Summits. From their first expedition up Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa to Mount Elbrus, Aconcagua, Denali, Vinson Massif, and Carstensz Pyramid,they had reached the summit of the highest peak on six continents and they only needed to check the 29,035 ft. Everest off their list.
“We’ve been told by our guides that have done Everest that it’s about six to eight breaths for every step that you take,” Cheripko explained, “so you have to be able to deal with feeling like you can’t get a breath and at the same time, exerting the most energy that you have ever exerted in your life.”
The Everest Expedition, which they had been training to complete for more than a year, began in March with an 83-mile trek to Everest Base Camp. Once there, they took a fewdays to get organized and train in ladder-crossing, one of the most dangerous parts of an Everest attempt, before starting on their first cycle up the Mountain.
“Many people don’t realize that you have to take Everest in cycles. You have to go from Base Camp to Camp 1, maybe Camp 2, then come back to Base Camp. Then you’ll make your way up to Camp 3, then back. Your body needs the time to deal with the altitude and the lack of oxygen...” said Brian.“You end up heading through Icefall over and over.”
The Khumbu Icefall lies toward the bottom of the South Col route to Everest’s summit and consists of large crevasses and towers of ice that are likely to move or collapse at any time. Climbers cross the crevasses using metal ladders and ropes.
“Everest is in the Jet Stream and the Jet Stream shifts south for about two weeks. So when that happens,you’re looking for a good weather window to make the summit attempt. You want to be in the right position within the cycles to catch that weather window.”
Once climbers reach Camp 4 (8000m), they don’t have long to make a summit attempt before their window ends. To get to the summit they’ll make a 15-hour round trip climb along a razor ridge line with an 8,000 ft. drop on either side.
“There’s just a little mound (at the summit) where you can see everywhere. It was cold, but it was a beautiful day, sunny with blue skies. For summit days,Everest was probably one of our best,” said Cheripko. “I want everybody to know that I don’t think I’d be here if it weren’t for my upbringing in West Virginia and what I learned going to WVU.”
To read more about the Seven Summits and to follow Brian and Geneva’s full journey to the top, check out their blog from the Mountains here.