Friday, May 6, 2011
Updated: July 15, 5:33 PM ET
Iowa's Charlie Wittmack scales Everest
By Wayne Drehs
Charlie Wittmack climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest on Friday, the latest achievement in an extreme test of human endurance that began in England 10 months ago.
Wittmack, a 34-year-old Iowa attorney who became the first Iowan to summit Everest back in 2003, reached the highest point on Earth for a second time at about 1 a.m. ET. Cate Wittmack followed her husband's progress from Charlotte, N.C., with a GPS tracker he wore on his suit.
"I was lying in bed staring at this little dot and watching 'Flight of the Conchords,' " she said. "And every few minutes you would see this little dot getting closer and closer to the summit. And then it was there."
The information from the GPS was confirmed by an email sent to Cate from Charlie's mother, Dee Wittmack, at about 4:30 a.m. Friday. Dee Wittmack is currently trekking to Everest base camp and received word that her son had made it to the summit and already had returned to Camp 2 on the south side of the mountain.
Charlie Wittmack was one of the first climbers to reach the summit this year and was helped by near-perfect conditions. In 2003, he summited in a whiteout and was never able to take in the view from the highest point on Earth.
"He's fantasized about this amazing view, so I'm so excited that it was a clear day," Cate Wittmack said. "Hopefully he got to see everything he wanted."
Last August, he swam the Channel, becoming the first American to complete the "Peak and Pond," the name given to the challenge of climbing Everest and completing the Channel swim. Though Wittmack's swim was certified by the Channel Crossing Association, he downplayed the accomplishment that day because he wore a wetsuit to complete the 21-mile journey.
With Friday's climb, Wittmack has accomplished both physical feats in a span of nine months. Perhaps more impressive is that he connected the two with a 12-country, 8,000-mile bike ride from Calais, France to Kathmandhu, Nepal.
Along the way, he's dealt with everything from running out of money and eliminating his support team to being hit by a car traveling 40 mph in Kazakhstan. It is all part of an adventure/expedition/physical challenge Wittmack called "The World Triathlon."
"This is the future," Wittmack said after the Channel swim. "This is like what the marathon was in the 1950s and the Ironman in the 1970s and '80s. This is what ultra-sports are going to become. It's all in. All the way. I gave up everything for this. This is something where you can't just train on weekends."
Now comes the challenge of getting off Everest safely and returning home to his wife and 3-year-old son, James. The majority of Everest accidents happen on the descent. Wittmack plans on staying at Everest for the next month to meet his mother at base camp and help two friends also reach the summit.
"At this point, I'm more excited than relieved," Cate said. "I'll be relieved when he's actually off the mountain, through the ice fall and back home. That's when I'll be relieved -- when he's home."
Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Wayne on Twitter @espnWD.