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Park City Couple Successfully Summits Mount Everest


Park City residents Rob Lea and Caroline Gleich successfully summited Mount Everest on May 24. Since 1921, nearly 300 have lost their lives trying to climb the world’s highest peak. This year has been particularly deadly with 11 people dying while trying to reach the summit or returning from it.

Rob Lea says climbing Mount Everest was harder than he expected. He says spending 32 nights in a tent at high elevation is hard on the body. They experienced flu like symptoms and sinus problems.  His fiancée, Caroline Gleich says the 3 months of tent training they did at home cut their time on the mountain from the traditional 70 days down to 35 days.

“We spent most of the time at advance base camp, which is at 21,000 feet. We had been sleeping at 17,000 feet in a hypoxico altitude training tent here in Park City. We ended up having to extend our trip because of the weather.”

“The jet stream with Everest being 29,000 feet, and this year, it kind of wiggled and it never really came off until just a few days that gave us a summit opportunity. And so, really, we were always just waiting for a weather day. That was the big thing.”

Gleich says they never knew for sure if they would accomplish the task because there are many factors that go into summiting Mount Everest safely.

“I mean, when I look at some of the fatalities and accidents on Everest, I see that some of the people get really hung up on the summit fever. So, I try to kind of detach myself a bit from the outcome. And, just take it one step at a time. And, there were a lot of things along the way that made you want to turn around. You know it was really cold and windy and you don’t feel great.”

Gleich was sick early on and at one point, Lea says the wind nearly blew her off the mountain.

“Knocked down at one point from the wind and started sliding on the ice and luckily we were in a really flat area and we had to go and kind of grab her and make sure she didn’t blow away.”

This climbing season, there’s been an unusually high number of deaths on Mount Everest. Gleich says last year there were a lot of days that the weather cooperated so teams could spread out more. And when the weather is so poor, she says there are more fatalities. Lea says this year, both northern and southern routes were crowded with lines of people waiting to summit.

“There were lines, is because we had a tough weather year here with the winds. So, when it was time to go and there was a good day, too many teams decided to go. And so, the south is definitely more crowded than the north route that we were on.  But, even on the north, there were crowds that day. And, we were ready to go. We were high on the mountain at 25,000 feet, camp 2. We could have gone for the summit on the same day that everybody else did, but we knew that all these teams were going to go so we made the conscious decision to just stare at the inside of our tent walls."

The summit is not a large area allowing for just a couple dozen people on the top at most. Lea says the drop off on all sides is severe and most people are trying to find a spot to take their oxygen masks off and get a picture without other climbers in the frame.

“The Himalayas are just a beautiful range. But, as we climb higher, we got to see Choy yu which we climbed last fall which was pretty special to look across the valley and see that.”

“You just look out and see a sea of mountains and watching the sunrises and sunsets at those altitudes, it’s like watching a sunrise out of a plane. Cause you’re so high and the perspective on the horizon with the way the sun is coming up, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  It’s beautiful.

The mountaineering couple, Gleich and Lea, remind us that nothing grows above 18,000 feet and that for more than a month they saw only rock and ice. They say it’s especially nice to be home in Park City where things are growing and there’s green all around.


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