Bruce has been climbing since he was a young teenager, but he first got the idea to climb the Seven Summits -- the highest mountain on each of the seven continents -- in about 2001. He went with a group of local friends to climb Mt. McKinley, in Alaska, and the next year decided to climb Kilimanjaro, in Africa. It was about then that he started thinking of maybe trying to do them all. When he mentioned it to me, I said something like, "Yeah, right. You climb all the others and then we'll talk about you climbing Everest." Silly me.
Anyway, just for fun, here are the six continental high points, the year that he summited them, and their heights.
Mt. McKinley, North America, 1999, 20,320 feet
Aconcogua, South America, 2001, 22.831 feet
Kilimanjaro, Africa, 2002, 19,340 feet
Vinson Massif, Antarctica, 2003, 16,069 feet (No summit photo here - the choice was lose your fingers to frostbite while trying to operate a camera, or not . . . Bruce chose not - he's a very responsible climber)
Mt. Elbrus, Europe, 2004, 18,511 feet
Kosciuszko, Australia, 2005, 7,310 (Yep, Janet bagged a high point)
You probably all know this already, but Bruce was scheduled to go to Everest last year at this time. He was planning to go up the Northeast ridge of Everest, which is in China (the South side is in Nepal). Then the Olympics rolled around, there was a whole lot of political unrest, the Chinese government got scared that climbers were going to protest on the mountain, and so they shut the mountain down, and eventually closed all the borders into Lhasa, which is where you need to go to get to base camp on the north side. We got the final word that the trip was off four days before Bruce was supposed to leave. Much disappointment and frustration at the Parker's.
The good news was that the guide that Bruce had signed on with, Russell Brice (world renowned Everest guide -- go here to read about him) offered to hold the money and carry everything over to this year. So all we had to do now was keep Bruce in the best condition of his life for another year : ) That year has gone by pretty fast, it seems, and here we are again. The conditions in China are still not good, and while they are letting some people climb the north side, they have placed ridiculously prohibitive restrictions on the groups that go there, so a few months ago Russell approached the climbers who were signed on to go this year and asked how they felt about climbing the south side instead. Everyone was fine with that, so the south side it is. This is actually the side you usually hear about. Everyone asks what the difference is as far as difficulty or danger, and the answer Bruce gives is: The north side is more technically difficult, but not as dangerous. The south side has the ice fall, which makes it more dangerous in general.
Another good thing that came of the delay is that Bruce decided since he couldn't go to Everest last year, maybe he would use the time in between to climb another high mountain to get some experience -- see how he would do at extreme high altitude, use oxygen (which he hadn't done before) etc. He was able to sign on with Russell Brice to climb Manaslu, in Nepal. It is the eighth highest mountain in the world, approximately 2,000 feet shorter than Everest. He left in August of 2008, was gone for seven weeks, and had a very successful trip, in spite of some extended bad weather that almost kept them from summiting. We both feel that this was a really good "practice run," and Bruce feels more confident now in his ability to climb Everest.
Manaslu, Nepal, 2008, 26,781 feet
Bruce in funny oxygen mask. Looks like Hefalump to me.
Okay. So Bruce leaves Wednesday morning at 7:58 a.m. You can't imagine how excited I am to get up at three in the morning to take him to the airport : ). The packing is going on in earnest, and he's just about ready to go. Please be patient with the fact that this blog looks less than perfect -- it's my very first time (thanks Carlie, Molly and Amy for the help!). I'm hoping to become a better blogger as we go along . . .