U.S. Air Force Summits Everest with Interesting Philosophy


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Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Topic Author's Original Post - May 19, 2013 - 10:31pm PT
The U.S. Air Force is the first U.S. military team to summit Everest. They do so to honor fallen comrades, illustrating that there are many motives for climbing.

New post on USAF 7 Summits Challenge

Looking Back
by admin

The team has begun its descent from the summit of Mount Everest, and while the climb is far from over, we want to take a moment to reflect back on the long road to this achievement.

The USAF 7 Summits Challenge began eight years ago, at RAF Mildenhall. Then-Capt Rob Marshall, co-founder of the Challenge, had been working and living with one of the fallen crew members of Wrath 11, an Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130H ‘Talon II’ that crashed in Albania in March of 2005. Rob and the other co-founder, then-Capt Mark Uberuaga, had been planning a climb of Mount Elbrus in the Caucus Mountains of Russia, the highest point in Europe. They decided to dedicate their climb to their fallen comrades, and use the climb as a way to clear their heads and deal with the loss of their friends. As they progressed in their planning, they eventually decided to launch an effort to climb all of the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent. In addition to this symbolic first climb, the team also began raising funds and awareness for military charities that would support the families of the fallen airmen.

With the Seven Summits now squarely in their sights, they developed the vision for the newly formed USAF 7 Summits Challenge: “We climb to promote camaraderie and esprit d ’corps among US Airmen and to highlight the Air Force’s focus on personal fitness and growth.” Over the intervening years, others joined the effort for various climbs as the team ticked off summit after summit: Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt. Aconcagua in South America, Mt. McKinley in Alaska, Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, and Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia. The intent was never for any single individual to climb the Seven Summits, but rather for an ever-changing team of USAF climbers to carry the USAF flag to each of these peaks. Managing these expeditions around conflicting TDY schedules and combat deployments wasn’t easy, but they kept at it.

The entire Challenge has unfolded during a period when the USAF, and the nation, has been at war. The idea of building resiliency, the ability to deal with adversity and loss and come back stronger, has shaped the team’s thinking more and more over the years. Everyone who has climbed as part of the team has shared the sentiment that the time spent in the mountains is good for the human spirit, and the idea of inviting Wounded Warriors to join them on the trek to Everest Base Camp was born out if that sentiment.

For the Everest climb, the team also seized on the opportunity to add another aspect to their mission: using their climbing to promote the Air Force vision of Risk Management, not just on the job, but off-duty as well. All of the USAF Everest climbers have been trained in Risk Management, and use it every day in their primary jobs. But they also live and breath RM in their mountaineering, and here was a chance to promote that mindset among all Airmen. The AF Safety Center has been a strong supporter of this effort, and you can expect to hear more about this climb in the future as they continue to promote the idea of “off-duty” RM.

Many people have asked about the future of the USAF 7 Summits Challenge. Will they make plans for other peaks, or a return to some of the Seven Summits? For now, it’s too early to tell. No single team member has climbed all seven summits, and no doubt a few of them still itch to finish their personal bucket list. Certainly the team hopes that others will set their sights on distant peaks just as the Challenge founders did, as a means of honoring their comrades, and staying strong in the face of adversity.

Social climber
So Cal
May 19, 2013 - 10:48pm PT
To quote one of my son's ex CO's

What we do is 100% deadly

100% of the time

Aircrew and climbing mindset is strikingly similar

Trad climber
May 19, 2013 - 10:51pm PT
if those service men knew anything about their services actual record
they would have gone in sack cloth
and never told a soul afterwords


Trad climber
May 19, 2013 - 11:02pm PT
Great timing, Jan, and thanks so much for sharing.

Dolt's more comprehensive military service record arrived last week. He served in the USAF 1953 - 1957, primarily at Castle AFB in Merced, CA. (I have a nifty hat from the museum courtesy of Mouse & it's in heavy rotation!)

I'll try to post some of the most interesting material from the record when I can find a few minutes (Ha ha!).

Really enjoyed this.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Topic Author's Reply - May 19, 2013 - 11:04pm PT
The airmen killed over Albania in whose memory this quest was started, were supporting our bombing of the Serbs in Bosnia. The Europeans wrung their hands and did nothing while civilians were slaughtered for several years. Our bombs stopped the slaughter of innocent civilians within a couple of weeks.Every situation is different and the Air Force doesn't make policy, our politicians do.

And thanks Lila, looking forward to your post.

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
May 19, 2013 - 11:10pm PT
One of my former flight instructors in Broomfield, CO at Rocky Mountain Metro Airport had summited Everest for a similar reason. But mainly to "clear his head."

Trad climber
Nedsterdam CO
May 19, 2013 - 11:14pm PT
Semper Fi to the USAF

First I've heard of this. Good on them FlyBoys!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
May 19, 2013 - 11:25pm PT

Trad climber
New River, AZ
May 19, 2013 - 11:31pm PT
Me and a AF brother used to rap off of 80 ft guard towers at Kwang Ju air base, Korea. All of our non climbing buddies thought we were loco. We hunted down quarries and cliffs and honed our early "stonemaster "skills. We got to talk( er translate) to the team that climbed Baintha Brakk II. A very intimidating chunk of Earth !! Year was 1981

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 19, 2013 - 11:55pm PT
I have a very good Bosnian friend who fought in that horrid affair. Needless
to say, despite being a professional musician, some of the sweetest music to
his ears was that of US Air Force jets bombing Serb artillery.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2013 - 12:02am PT
The Air Force team is now safely back at the South Col and will continue descending to Camp 2.

Meanwhile, they have acomplished another amazing first on Everest. Here's from their latest report.

Those who have followed the USAF 7 Summits Challenge know that the team has a tradition of doing pushups on the summit of each peak they climb, and this was no exception. Rob Marshall knocked out an incredible 30 pushups in 30 seconds, at 29,000’, without oxygen! (That might just earn him a waiver from his annual PT test.)

Talk about hard core!

Trad climber
New River, AZ
May 20, 2013 - 12:40am PT
This is cool news !! I'm interested in finding out how the "team" got the A-F to , shall we say, sponsor them for this endeavor? I used to present all kinds of "outdoor" type ideas to Air Force "brass" and got snuffed left and right. Times have certainly gotten better for athletes outta the norm !!

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Topic Author's Reply - May 20, 2013 - 12:44am PT
Indeed. I used to be the only person on an Air Force base riding a bicycle and carrying a small day pack. Now everyone does. What was once considered hippie has now become standard.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Topic Author's Reply - May 22, 2013 - 08:19am PT
Three out of five team members made it to the top at 5:30 am on the same day 50 years later, that the first American team summited. Two team members turned back, and returned to the South Col. One had a respiratory infection that slowed him down and the other was getting frostbite in his toes.

They have all descended safely and are headed for the airfield at Lukla.

The whole climbing team at the South Col.
The whole climbing team at the South Col.
Credit: Jan
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
May 22, 2013 - 08:30am PT
If they wanted an honorable war to harken back to, I'd pick WWII. What the USAF does now is drop bombs on people in the thirld world.

May 22, 2013 - 08:33am PT
If they wanted an honorable war to harken back to, I'd pick WWII. What the USAF does now is drop bombs on people in the thirld world.


Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 22, 2013 - 08:50am PT
If we had not won WW11 AF general Clemay and many others would have hung in Nuremburge for the fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo. Clemay spoke words to the effect to the presedint that the firebombings would make them war criminals if we did not win.. The firebombing of tokyo BBQed more than both nukes combined. war is an ugly buisness.

Trad climber
under the sea
May 22, 2013 - 09:30am PT
Waste of tax $$.
Stewart Johnson

lake forest
May 22, 2013 - 09:32am PT
Great news! but i cant hold back ...
All the critisism over the big E and what a sh#t show it is
until some mericans summitt then you love it.
It took alot of SHERPA manpower to get the Airforce team up the big E.
Anyone who thinks different has something wrong with brain.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
May 22, 2013 - 01:07pm PT
Go Air Force!

Hooo Yahh!!

Credit: survival
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