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Sunday, July 17, 2011
Charlie Wittmack risks it to finish World Triathlon


Charlie Wittmack
Wittmack atop Mount Everest during his 11-month, 10,000-mile, 13-country swimming/biking/climbing adventure.

This story appears in the July 25, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine. See Wayne Drehs' story on ESPN.com here.

THE DOTS ARE ORANGE. A new one appears every 10 minutes. This is the only way Cate Wittmack knows her husband is still alive.

Halfway around the world, Charlie Wittmack is by himself, plodding through knee- and waist-high snowdrifts in an attempt to be one of the first men in 2011 to summit Mount Everest. The 34-year-old attorney from Des Moines, Iowa, has put himself and his family through hell to get here. His climb during the first week of May is the culmination of a longtime dream: an 11-month, 10,000-mile, 13-country swimming/biking/climbing adventure Charlie dubbed the World Triathlon. Each step toward the highest point on Earth is a step closer to the finish line. A few days earlier, Charlie had asked Cate what life will look like when he returns home. She has yet to give him an answer. For now, she nervously follows her husband's progress thanks to a GPS device he carries. As long as the dots keep moving across her screen, Charlie is still moving up the mountain.

In many ways, Cate is the ultimate fan. But this is about more than personal pride or bragging rights. This is bigger than wearing a jersey, buying a season ticket or building a fantasy team. For Cate, a win means her husband comes home. A loss and his final resting place is the side of the most famous mountain in the world.