Grand Forks native climbs Mount Everest, completes Seven Summits
Andrew Towne has reached the top of the world.
The 2000 Grand Forks Central graduate summited Mount Everest late Wednesday night, International Mountain Guides confirmed, completing his quest to reach the highest point on all seven of the world's continents.
Towne, climbing in a group of 25 people including 15 Nepalese sherpas, reached the mountain's peak of 29,035 feet before noon local time.
By summiting Everest, Towne joined the rare club of climbers who have completed the Seven Summits.
According to 7summits.com, a website that tracks climbing statistics, fewer than 300 people in world history have done it.
The first of the Seven Summits for Towne was Africa's Kilimanjaro (elevation 19,340) in 2003, while he was studying abroad in Kenya.
Towne climbed South America’s Aconcagua (22,840) and Australia/Oceania's Carstensz Pyramid (16,023) in 2011, North America's Denali (20,320) and Europe's Elbrus (18,481) in 2012 and Antarctica's Vinson Massif (16,067) in 2015.
Because Carstensz Pyramid is located in Indonesia, a few consider Australia's Kosciuszko (7,310) -- a significantly easier climb than Carstensz Pyramid -- to be the seventh summit. Towne climbed Kosciuszko in 2011 for good measure.
Only 148 people ever have done the Seven Summits, including both Carstensz Pyramid and Kosciuszko, according to 7summits.com.
This was Towne's second attempt at Everest.
In 2015, he survived the deadly earthquake and avalanche at Everest Base Camp, which killed 19 people and shut down climbing for the year.
Towne, who ran cross-country at Central and was part of a national champion rowing team at Yale, began the long process of trying to tackle Everest once again in April.
Climbers generally need to spend more than a month on the mountain to acclimatize their bodies to the thin air. Consider that Everest's Base Camp (18,500) is 4,000 feet higher than any mountain in Colorado or Montana.
So, with a summit date targeted for late May -- Everest has a narrow window for climbing season when the jet stream moves off the mountain's peak -- Towne departed his home in the Twin Cities on April 5. He flew from Minneapolis to Chicago to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to Kathmandu, Nepal, to Lukla, Nepal, before embarking on a 10-day, 40-mile trek to Everest Base Camp.
Once at Base Camp, there are three rotations designed to help acclimate the climbers' bodies to the thin air.
The first rotation is a climb to nearby Lobuche Peak (19,500). The second rotation is a climb just past Camp 2 (21,500). The third rotation is a climb to Camp 3 (24,000), where they spend one night.
Then, after a few days of rest, comes the five-day summit push.
Towne's group climbed to Camp 2 on Saturday, then spent Sunday resting there. On Monday, they climbed to Camp 3 and spent the night. On Tuesday, they climbed to Camp 4, which is roughly 26,000 feet, for a brief rest, before departing for the summit.
International Mountain Guides reported that Towne's group had light winds and clear skies for the final push to the top.
After summiting, the group promptly began their 10,000-foot descent toward base camp -- a process that could take a couple of days. Towne still has to climb back through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall -- a moving glacier with massive crevasses located between Everest Base Camp and Camp 1 -- one more time.
There have been constant reminders of Everest's danger this season. Six people have died on the mountain this year -- four in the last week.
Upon returning, Towne is expected to fly to Washington, D.C., where he's planning to give a speech on June 1 at the Youth For Understanding national headquarters.
Towne, who works for an international consulting firm in the Twin Cities, has used his climbs to raise money for Youth For Understanding intercultural exchange programs for students, getting contributions from Scheels, Casual Adventure and K&J Jewelry.