Wednesday, May 29, 2013
A team of U.S. airmen became the first group of active-duty American service members to summit Mount Everest on May 19.
(I've posted unbelievable video of the team's ascent and descent from the summit of Everest. Simply breathtaking.)
Sadly, illness forced Capt. Colin Merrin of Santee to turn back before he could summit with his team.
Home Post had been following Merrin's progress as he attempted to summit the world's highest mountain with the USAF 7 Summits Challenge team. As climber Maj. Rob Marshall wrote on the team's blog:
I’ll never forget when Capt Merrin told me he had to turn around. Capt Ackles and I were climbing up a steep pitch and caught up to him on a ledge. It was a bit of a blur of headlamps and other climbers navigating the narrow ledge where he sat, but just as I was about to reach him, I saw two boots sticking out from the snowy ledge- they belonged to a deceased climber that must have been frozen there for a few years.
Colin wasn’t aware of the body at the time, so when he told me he had made the decision to return to Camp 4 due to his respiratory infection, I told him it was clearly the right decision, as there was a deceased climber 30′ from us that had likely failed to make such a critical decision. It was a heart breaking moment to know he wouldn’t continue up with us, but I was also terribly proud of him for making such a smart decision. I shake my head as I write this, thinking how tough that call must of been, yet how sure he was that it was the right one.
According to the U.S. Air Force, the team's accomplishments have been unparalleled:
The historic climb marks the first time a team of military members from any nation has reached the highest point on all seven continents including Mount Elbrus in Europe, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Aconcagua in South America, Mount McKinley in North America, Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, and Mount Everest in Asia.
The USAF 7 Summits Challenge team is now back home in the good ol' U.S. of A. Congratulations!