WASHINGTON (May 26, 2012)—Taking advantage of what was only this season’s second good weather window, five athletes on a National Geographic and The North Face expedition reached the highest point on Earth, stepping foot atop the summit of Mount Everest at approximately 8 a.m. Nepal time on Friday, May 25.
Renowned mountaineers Hilaree O’Neill and Kris Erickson, along with rock and ice climbers Sam Elias and Emily Harrington — who are all part of The North Face Global Athlete Team — and Mark Jenkins, a climber and writer on assignment for National Geographic magazine, set out from the South Col at approximately 9 p.m. May 24 Nepal time for their summit push. The expedition marked the first Everest summit for the entire team. Upon return to the South Col, O’Neill and Erickson continued to summit Lhotse, accomplishing the two summits in one 24-hour period (http://www.neverstopexploring.com/blog/2012/05/erickson-audio-dispatch-summited-this-morning-bright-and-early.html).
“It was awesome,” Harrington said. “There is a 360-degree view of the Himalaya, and you could see over into Tibet, all of Nepal and the mountains. It was amazing just being able to stand up there, and experiencing that made the whole thing worth it.”
Following the team from the moment they set out, National Geographic and The North Face have given followers the chance to take a front row seat, watching the expedition as it unfolded through use of the photo-sharing app Instagram (http://instagr.am/), which was put in the hands of the climbers themselves to share photos of their experiences. On Instagram, @natgeo and @thenorthface followers were the first to know the team had summited, as Harrington posted a self-portrait she took on the summit from Camp 4, as she returned from the top of the mountain.
The expedition got underway March 15 with the team of five accompanied by famed mountaineer Conrad Anker and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, both of whom are also athletes on The North Face Global Team. The two had planned to summit Everest via its seldom-climbed West Ridge in celebration of the1963 National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition — the first American ascent to the summit via the West Ridge. However, Richards was evacuated off the mountain on April 28 for unspecified health issues, and Anker, who had previously summited Everest twice, determined that, due to dangerous conditions on the West Ridge, he would instead accompany the South Col team.
Following a climb from Camp 2 to Camp 4 to unite with the South Col team on May 24, Anker decided to remain at Camp 4 for his team on their descent and to assist with any additional support that should be needed, and the five pushed ahead on what would be a challenging climb. After the team had summited and safely arrived at lower elevations, Anker made a push for the summit himself. He summited without oxygen via the South Col at 10:10 a.m. on May 26 and is now reunited with the team at Camp 2. This marked Anker’s third Everest summit, yet his first summit via the Southeast Ridge.
One of the main purposes of the South Col expedition was for Erickson and O’Neill, who have climbed some of the world’s most challenging mountains, to provide mentorship to Elias and Harrington, whose backgrounds are in rock and ice climbing.
The expedition also was focused on education and seeking to answer scientific questions, with geologists from Montana State University on the Southeast Ridge team, and medical specialists from Mayo Clinic at Base Camp.
Mayo Clinic researchers have been studying the climbers and recording real-time data as part of their research on the impacts of high altitude on human physiology. The Montana State University team re-surveyed the summit of Mount Everest in the hopes of shedding light on the compression between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates that lie beneath the mountain, as well as attempting to obtain a new height measurement for Everest.
The Montana State University team also created an eight-week online science curriculum to accompany the expedition, which focused on geology, glaciology, climate change and other topics, to allow classrooms to mimic the research and observations of the Everest team. Developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation and support from The North Face, National Geographic and other sponsors, the curriculum is targeted at fifth graders, but is available to teachers of any grade.
The team is now at Camp 2 and will likely return to Base Camp within 24 hours, where they will offer additional comment on their experience and prepare for their return to the States. The studies conducted on the mountain are expected to be published in the coming months.
In addition to National Geographic magazine’s current website and iPad coverage, the magazine plans to publish a print article by Jenkins early next year.
About National Geographic
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
About The North Face®
The North Face, a division of VF Outdoor, Inc., was founded in 1968. Headquartered in San Leandro, Calif., the company offers the most technically advanced products in the market to accomplished climbers, mountaineers, snowsport athletes, endurance athletes and explorers. The company’s products are sold in specialty mountaineering, backpacking, running and snowsport retailers, premium-sporting goods retailers and major outdoor specialty retail chains.