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Local Couple On Their Way Up To The Top Of The World

Jim Lea

Park City residents Rob Lea and Caroline Kleich will make their Mount Everest summit attempt today. 

According to an email from Rob’s parents, Jim and Cindy Lea,  Rob and Caroline are high on Everest and feeling well. They spent Tuesday night at Camp 2 at almost 24,750 feet above sea level and were headed for Camp 3 on Wednesday at 27,390 feet. Today (Thursday) is the summit push, weather permitting. They’ll leave camp around midnight—which is noon our time  - and head for the summit. 

The email described a challenging section of the climb that happens at about 28,000 feet. The summit is at 29,035. It said the Northeast Ridge represents the most difficult climbing on this route - the two are climbing the North face of Everest – a choice that’s done by about only 30% of those who attempt to summit.

There are three "steps" or rock climbs along the way. The 1st Step is steep and challenging at this altitude. It requires hard pulling on the fixed ropes in the final gully to the ridge. It’s estimated that it takes about 2 hours to climb to the First Step  from Camp 3.

Mushroom Rock is a feature on the ridge that spotters and climbers can use to measure their progress on summit night. This is where oxygen is swapped. The route can be full of loose rock adding to the difficulty with crampons.

Getting to the Second Step takes about another hour. This is the crux of the climb with what’s called the Chinese Ladder. Climbers must first climb about 10 feet of rock slab then climb the near vertical 30 foot ladder. This section is very exposed with a 10,000 foot vertical drop.

The Third Step at 28,500 feet can take another 1 to 2 hours and then it’s another 3 hours to the summit.

On the descent, it can take 8 hours to return to Camp 3. It’s reportedly more difficult to navigate on the descent since you can’t see your feet placement on the ladder rungs. This brief section is notorious for long delays thus increasing the chance of frostbite or Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS.

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