Summiting Everest

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  • Pictured is the flag that UNI professor Andy Anderson carried with him to the summit of the north face of Mount Everest.

  • UNI professor Andy Anderson speaks about his climb of Mount Everest.

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On May 22, 2017 the unthinkable occurred. Two men ascended Mount Everest’s Northeast Ridge in a 52-day expedition. The climbers, assistant professor of management at UNI Andy Anderson, as well as his cousin John Anderson, became the first Iowans to summit this exact ridge.

The Office of the Provost and the College of Business Administration invited UNI students, faculty, staff, administration and guests to hear the Andersons’ story this past Friday in the Curris Business Building.

A. Anderson began by talking about his love for climbing, a love he possesed ever since he attended a Boy Scout trip when he was in middle school, in which he and his friends spent all day climbing a rock wall and slept underneath it that night. This experience got him so enthused with rock climbing that A. Anderson and his friend decided to build their own rock wall in a large metal shed near their Iowa countryside home. 

A. Anderson then decided to further his rock climbing capabilities. He moved on from technical rock climbing and summited Mount Everett in Massachusetts, his first mountain. A. Anderson summited mountains, including three of the Seven Summits before climbing Everest. He also ran many marathons and even biked across the US a few times to further build his endurance.

The Andersons decided to climb the north side of Mount Everest because it is a more difficult climb than if they were to climb the south side. They each trained for the summit differently. A. Anderson was committed to building up his endurance, whereas J. Anderson climbed more mountains.

J. Anderson went out to Colorado and climbed at least once a month and tried to train his body to endure the conditions on a mountain. However, when he was not climbing, he was also working on cardio exercises.

After their extensive training was complete, they began their expedition to Central Asia.

This was the first time the two men had ever seen Mount Everest in person.

“This was a really special moment for me,”  A. Anderson said. “Something that you trained really really hard for, something you dreamed about for a lot of years and now to actually have all of that come to fruition and stand there and say that’s the one — I’m going to climb that one. That was really special for me.”

Shortly after this, they arrived at basecamp. There were a number of camps spread out around the base of the mountain from several different countries. Here is where they met with guides and the rest of their squad. The Iowans made this climb unguided, however, both men did receive help from a Sherpa.

A Sherpa is a person who was born and raised in an area with high altitude making them more used to the conditions and someone who has summited Everest on several occasions.

The job of a Sherpa is to help the climbers make their way up the mountain. They have so much experience on the mountain that they know how to perform a rescue if an emergency presents itself.

Something that is very important to the Sherpas is performing a spiritual act called Puja. This is asking permission of the gods to climb the mountain, which was performed every time the climbers moved higher up the mountain. After basecamp, the two men climbed to intermediate camp, and then advanced basecamp. The altitude made the men feel worse and worse as they climbed from camp to camp.

“My head in my hands, a bottle of aspirin, just feeling completely and utterly uncomfortable and miserable, and you had to go through this every time you went up and got higher, […] just feeling completely miserable,” A. Anderson said.

From advanced basecamp, the Iowans climbed to camp one, two and three. The climb from camp two to camp three was one of the hardest mental challenges A. Anderson had to overcome. The climb from camp two to three included climbing through the death zone where they saw their first deceased climber, who had  died only hours before they arrived.

“I thought to myself, why am I different than Frank?” A. Anderson said. However, he overcame this by understanding he had done everything he could do to make this climb and that he was going to survive.

Then came the summit. The Andersons made it to the top of Mount Everest together and raised their Iowa and UNI flags.

“[I felt] pure joy, just elation […] At the end of the day, it is all about the process of getting there,” A. Anderson said.

The men were even lucky enough to experience the sun rise at the top of Mount Everest.

John, who decided to put his camera away once they reached the summit, shared how he experienced the sunrise.

“I thought, ‘Stop capturing the moment and just live that moment’ […] The mountains just lit up around you,” J. Anderson said. “[It was] just a really spectacular thing, something I am going to remember for the rest of my life.”

Five Iowans have climbed Mount Everest, but these two men are the first to ever climb the north and most difficult summit of Mount Everest. Tim Scheve, a senior digital marketing major, was very satisfied with the overall presentation.

“It was very inspiring, very interesting and I am glad that I came,” Scheve said.

Molly Daugherty, junior finance and real estate major, also attended the presentation.

“We all say we have dreams, but the things I am doing are not actually leading to pursue those dreams,” Daugherty said. “He is very inspiring because he makes you realize, ‘Are they really your dreams if you’re not aiming for them?’”

Now, after sharing his story, Andy Anderson has another climbing plan in mind: Leadman. Consisting of five different athletic events involving running and biking through the mountains, A. Anderson has set his sights on even greater heights.