Climbing for a cause, Army's Harold Earls leads Everest expedition

Harold Earls has never been a cold-weather fan, being a native of Cumming, Ga.

So why is Army 2nd Lt. Earls, a recent graduate of West Point and former Army baseball player, leading an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest — the highest point on Earth (29,029 feet) and as such one of the coldest?

"I'm most excited that we're raising awareness for soldiers struggling with post-traumatic stress (disorder)," Earls told The Web Show's Matt Lincoln.

In the past five years, more U.S. soldiers have died from suicide as a result of PTSD than enemy attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, a jarring statistic that Earls and his team from U.S. Expeditions and Explorations hope to reverse.

"We wanted to do something about it by creating expeditions that mirror being part of a mission-oriented unit and team in combat," he said. "Mount Everest is just the beginning."

The six-person USX team — including retired Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, a single-leg amputee who would be the first combat-wounded veteran to summit Everest — is in Nepal making final preparations for their 63-day expedition.

It will be a daunting task.

The past two climbing seasons have seen unprecedented numbers killed in the attempt. On April 25 last year 18 climbers were killed in an earthquake-sparked avalanche that killed more than 8,000 people in Nepal. The 2014 season was cut short after an avalanche on the mountain killed dozens of Sherpa guides.

More than 200 corpses remain on the mountain, some even serving as landmarks.

Earls' wife Rachel has been chronicling his preparations and posted this video when he left for Nepal. ASN will chronicle Earls' expedition throughout.

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