Team USX is on top of the world after reaching the summit of Mount Everest on Tuesday morning. (Watch part of their climb above Camp 1.)
The team tweeted:
— USX (@TeamUSX) May 24, 2016
Army 2nd Lt. Harold Earls, a recent graduate of West Point and former Army baseball player, led the expedition to raise awareness for PTSD. Their mission took on renewed purpose this month when the team learned of the suicide of Marine veteran Dan Sidles, one of their climbing buddies. Retired Sgt. Major Todd Burnett, one of the founders of the USX expedition, will join The Web Show on Friday.
The team returned safely and in good health to advanced base camp. They will be back at base camp Friday or Saturday.
Some of the details of their summit Tuesday from the northern route (North Col):
- Earls and Capt. Elyse Ping Medvigy summited at approximately 7:40 a.m. Everest Time.
- Retired Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes and Dr. Dave Ohlson summited at approximately 8:45 a.m. Everest Time.
- Weather conditions forced Team USX to split with their respective Sherpas and tents, which is why they did not summit as a group.
“I think about the fallen soldiers I’m climbing for every day,” Ping Medvigy said via text message, “especially when things got difficult on the mountain.”
The temperature was minus-20 degrees with wind gusts of 65 mph, icicles hanging hanging from the outer part of their suits and goggles. Earls reported his frostbit toes became bloody from walking down the hill after the summit.
He said it snowed all night, then right when they crested the snow pyramid a near 600-foot vertical snow field about 30-40 minutes from the summit, the sun started to break through and Earls reported an incredible view of the sun rising from the summit. The gusts of wind made the summit not very enjoyable. Earls reported staying on summit for five minutes with Ping Medvigy.
Earls’ goggles were blown off his face. His Sherpa, An Doja, shared his goggles with Earls.
“At one point he started to become snow blind, he couldn’t see anything and we were on a cliff alone. I was scared for sure,” Earls said. “The gusts of wind would blow snow drift at incredible speeds and sting your face and make you go blind. I ended up opening my down suit and allowing him to stick his face in my chest to get warm.”
An Doja actually fell off a steep cliff slash ridge. The fall would have been more than 7,000 feet. Earls dropped to a knee to grip the rope, the same rope they were both on.
“Praise God the rope caught after about a 10 foot fall and he fell in a heap steep snow,” Earls said.
Team USX was part of a rescue as well on the North Col at Camp 1. A climber broke his leg and they had to drag him several hundred meters and Ohlson treated him. The climber survived.
But Earls also reported seeing several bodies dead along the way from Camp 3 to the summit, remnants of an eventful and tragic week on the world’s tallest mountain.
On Thursday, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville made history as the first ever combat-wounded amputee to summit Everest. The 30-year-old climbed the 29,029-foot summit with a prosthetic leg after being involved in a blast in Afghanistan in 2011 that left him with serious injuries to his right foot and hand. Linville was part of the Heroes Project expedition.
Jukes, who lost his right leg in Iraq in December 2006 when an improvised explosive device (IED) struck his vehicle, became the second combat-wounded amputee to reach Everest’s summit.
“I have found great satisfaction and great happiness in getting to the outdoors,” Jukes told ABC News Thursday by satellite phone. “I think that a lot of people can share in that healing power.”
A video posted by USX (@teamusx) on
Team USX planned to summit last week but spent an extra day at advanced base camp on the North Col recovering from a stomach bug.
Some 30 climbers have suffered frostbite or become seriously ill on Everest in recent days, as the spring climbing season comes to a close.
Monday’s death of the fourth person in four days on Everest served as a tragic reminder of the dangers in climbing the world’s highest peak. In addition to the fatalities, all from altitude sickness, two other climbers have gone missing.
There has been at least one fatality every year since 1990, according to Nepal’s tourism department. And more than 200 climbers have died since Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent in 1953.
Follow Team USX’s expedition in the photo gallery below: