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21 Jul: Camp Muir Morning

July 21st, 2013

Good Morning! All 12 climbers are happily enjoying breakfast at Camp Muir. We are snow camping at 10,000ft and the weather couldn’t be better: little wind, clear skies, peaks galore in the distance. The visibility is excellent.

Majs Marshall, Muller and Uberuaga were up at 6:45 to make hot water, breakfast burritos and quesadillas for our climbers. It was actually a vey leisurely morning to drink hot cocoa and coffee, enjoy the sun’s arc into the blue sky and smile at the accomplishment of everyone making it up here with heavy packs in hot weather.

Yesterday was a good day on the mountain. The climb from Paradise was hot- lots of sweat and sun exposure wore people out, but the camaraderie made it much easier. At each rest break we’d read a quote or book passage to help each of us make the most of this day: being aware of our thoughts (both positive and negative), breathing in the fresh and invigorating mountain air, asking ourselves how we can grow and lean as an individual during the next few days, and remembering to smile at this great experience even when the going gets tough.

Our Wounded Warriors are doing great- their packs were heavy but they kicked some butt. Even though they are SpecOps guys, this traditional mountaineering is a new experience and the smiles on their faces confirms how much they’re enjoying it.

We are done with breakfast and now putting on gear to practice self-arrest (stopping yourself if you fall on snow/ice), crampon skills and crevasse travel/rescue.

We’ll give an update this evening with photos of the training. After that, it’s off to bed early before we leave at midnight on our operation to reach the summit.

“Climb High, Fly Low”

-Maj Rob Marshall

Slogging up the snow in warm sunshine

The view of Rainier as we started our climb

Maj U cooking in our snow kitchen

Maj U serving breakfast

Old Glory and our 5-tent camp

Rainier Climb Begins!

July 20th, 2013

Good Morning Everyone! It’s shaping up to be a beautiful day here at the base of Mt. Rainier. The sun is hidden behind clouds, which is keeping the morning cool and fresh. We imagine the sun will burn it off, but if not, that’d be fine- as otherwise it’s going to be a hot day on the snow. The team is meeting at the Whittaker Bunkhouse now and will be headed to Paradise (starting point for the climb) at 0800.

Last night 11 of the 12 climbers met at a small cabin in Ashford. We got to know each other, ate burgers, and shared a lot about ourselves. Team leader Mark Uberuaga spelled out his plan for the climb and talked a lot about risk management and how we all have an important part in it- from the most experienced climbers all the way through the most novice. Then we did a gear check- looking at each climber’s equipment and clothing to ensure they meet requirements- warm enough, light enough, waterproof, properly sized, etc. It was easy- this group of climbers is motivated and squared away!

Maj Uberuaga, Marshall, and Muller stayed up with a few other folks until real late packing up food, taping lids shut, bagging hot chocolate, and all the basic steps for getting team food ready. The morning came a little to quickly, but with a little coffee, we’re all ready. Speaking of that, time for me to head for some coffee and the gear rental store.

We will try to keep you all updated, but unsure as to how we’ll be able to do that. In the mean time, the GPS tracker will become active, so feel free to follow along at If the link in the upper right corner isn’t working at the moment, it will be soon!

Thanks for your support as always. GO AIR FORCE!

–Maj Marshall

Here We Go: Mt. Raininer ’13

July 19th, 2013

The time has come for the next step in the USAF 7 Summits Challenge! ¬†Just two months after flying the US Air Force flag from the summit of Mt. Everest, our team of Airmen mountaineers are off to another peak. ¬†This time it’s not a huge mountain in a far-flung region of the globe. ¬†As part of our new plan to teach fellow Airmen the healing power of the mountains, we’re going to stick to accessible peaks in America. ¬†For our first climb, we’re headed to Mt. Rainier in Washington State.

The team starts their journey tomorrow, Friday July 19th. ¬†We have a total of 12 climbers. ¬†Six are active duty Airmen, one is a retired AF O-6, two were previous Airmen, and the rest are civilians that wanted to be part of this inaugural climb. ¬†Two of our active duty Airmen are wounded Combat Controllers- both sustained combat injuries during Special Operations missions in Afghanistan. ¬†We had several other Airmen that were dealing with physical and mental difficulties signed up, however they had to drop out for various reason- we’re looking forward to getting them on our next climb.

On Saturday morning, the team will climb up to Camp Muir (10,00ft)- the halfway mark of the Rainier climb. ¬†Maj Mark Uberuaga will lead the team and Maj Rob Marshall and Maj Graydon Muller will act as assistant guides. ¬†We’ll spend that afternoon and all of Sunday at Camp Muir teaching mountaineering skills such as self-arrest, rope travel, glacier awareness, rope rescue, and other important skills. ¬†It’ll also be a time to get to know each other, share stories of how the mountains have helped each of us cope with difficulties and get to know ourselves better.

Monday morning is summit day. ¬†The team will be up around midnight for an alpine start. ¬†Our goal is to reach the summit sometime between 7-9am. ¬†After we fly the Air Force and American flags from the top of Washington State, we’ll knock out some pushups to highlight the importance of physical fitness and to honor our fallen friends. ¬†After that, it’s a good hike back down to the base of the mountain and back to our lodging. ¬†Burgers and cold drinks will likely be the main items on the menu at this point.

Big thanks to International Mountain Guides for loaning the team essential equipment for the climb. ¬†To Aviator Gear, Kirtland Federal Credit Union, and Southwest AMBUCS - thank you for your generous support. ¬†Additionally, we’d like to thanks all the individuals that made donations to individual climbers- your funds will go to cover all the costs of our Airmen-in-need climbers in the climb and the next one! ¬†We’ve raised over $9,000 in the build up for this climb and the donations are continuing to come in. ¬†(Want to donate? ¬†Head to

Mt. Rainier, 14,411ft.

Mt. Rainier, 14,411ft.

Follow updates from the Rainier ’13 team here (try the GPS Tracker)
and at

Do you know anyone that would benefit from an event like this? ¬†Have them contact us! ¬†Or, if you think they could use a helping hand, let us know and we’ll give ‘em a call and encourage them to join us on our next trip. ¬†Maybe they don’t want to wait? ¬†Well, we have enough great Airmen out there that we can put them in touch with someone in their area to head into the outdoors with. ¬†Whether it’s mountaineering, fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking or kayaking, there’s always a way to get outside and get working on overcoming your problems through sweat, teamwork, and friendship.

Climb High, Fly Low

Maj Rob Marshall, USAF

Mt. Rainier: Airmen Help Airmen Aim High

June 30th, 2013

In just under three weeks, the USAF 7 Summits team will be heading to one of the most beautiful mountains on Earth: Mt. Rainier.  This climb will be the first in their new project: taking injured, wounded, or troubled Airmen into the mountains as a way to heal and grow strong together.  With over eight years of climbing mountains around the world, we decided it was time to use our experience to help our fellow Airmen in need.

2002 05 00 Rainier Sunrise

Whether it is a bout of seasonal depression, a difficult period in life, or a major combat related injury, we know a few days climbing Mt. Rainier will help clear the mind, release stress, and boost self esteem.  It certainly does for us!

Mt. Rainier

The Rainier trip is already full. ¬†We have 12 climbers heading to Washington State on July 19th for the three-day trip. ¬†Climbers pay their way and also raise funds to help cover the costs of our Airmen in-need. ¬†That looks like it’ll be our model for future climbs: find an accessible American peak, bring about a dozen folks (both military and civilian), and spend the trip working together to get everyone to the summit and to work through the troubles of life. ¬†By the time the trip is over, everyone should be tired, smiling, and have a new sense of achievement- whether they reach the summit or not.

If you are interested in joining us on our next trip or know someone that would really benefit from it, please drop us a line. ¬†Also, if you’d like to help support our first climb with a donation, do it! ¬†We are a tax-deductible War Veteran’s organization and your funds will pay for the airfare, gear rental, food, and permits of an American¬†service member¬†dealing with physical or mental challenges.

“Climb High, Fly Low” ¬†–RMM

Follow us on here and at:

National Media Coverage: June 11th

June 12th, 2013

Three team members headed to New York City, using their own money and the donations of supporters, to go live on national news.  It was a huge success!  Maj Rob Marshall, Capt Colin Merrin and SMSgt Rob Disney made appearances on Fox & Friends, the Today Show, and Fox News Radio.  Their message of patriotism, adventure, teamwork, and the healing power of the mountains was heard/seen by approx 5.3 million people and valued at over $730,000 in publicity.  The team is proud to be supporting American and Air Force values in this exciting manner!

They were also able to introduce their new website:¬† It’s an extension of their USAF 7 Summits Challenge, but they decided to make a new page in order to keep the historical value of this awesome 7 Summits page.¬† The new website will be the central hub for Airmen helping Airmen through mountaineering trips.¬† If you are an Airman or know of one that is¬†looking for a way to overcome depression, PTSD, frustration or other mental/physical problems, contact the team through the¬† You’d likely be a great fit for our Rainier climb.¬† Or, if you’re just interested in learning about mountaineering you can do that too.¬† Remember, this isn’t anything official- it’s just a group of Airmen that think mountains are awesome and want to share the thrill and bonding experience of climbing them.

Fox News Radio

Click the photo to watch the outstanding interview on Fox News Radio.


Click HERE for the Fox & Friends interview.

1 Jun: Post-Everest Media Coverage

June 1st, 2013

Fox News Interview


Happy Saturday everyone! It’s the first full weekend the team has been back in America and we’re all doing well. As you can imagine, the Everest climbers are recovering from their awesome, yet taxing, adventure. I was surprised at how much sleep my body was demanding from me. Even a few days after getting home, my dreams were still about Mt. Everest and trying to climb it. Clearly my mind and body would need a few days to spin-down from the intense experience. Plus, my hunger is through the roof- my body wants to get back to its happy weight, so everything looks appetizing right now. ¬†It sounds like the rest of the team has been feeling the same, but that hasn’t stopped us from getting back to work!

We wanted to get a blog post up¬†summarizing some of¬†the excellent media coverage we’ve received since the successful Everest climb. From national cable news to local papers, the word is spreading about this positive and patriotic event. The team and I are hoping this is just the beginning and there is more to come. Just like each man and woman serving in the Air Force, our climbers have a compelling personal story that we hope will inspire and motivate all who hear it. So fingers crossed we can continue to share this experience with Americans of all walks of life. ¬†

Here are links to some of the top stories/interviews currently out:

Fox News “Happening Now” Interview: Interview:

Seattle Times:

Air Force Times:

Stars and Stripes:

Air Force News Service:

Bismark Tribune:

Don’t worry- we have more blog posts coming. ¬†I’d like to talk about some of the ways this climb has tied into Air Force goals: risk management, physical fitness, and mental health/resiliency. ¬†These mean a lot to me and the team, so I think you’ll like what we’ve got in store. ¬†Also, we’re considering the next step for the USAF 7 Summits Challenge. ¬†Involving more wounded/injured Airmen and helping get them into the mountains is important to us. ¬†So we’re throwing around the idea of a Wounded Warrior climb of Mt. Rainier this summer. ¬†More to come on that too.

“Climb High, Fly Low” ¬†– Rob Marshall

May 20-25: March to Civilization

May 25th, 2013

Good Morning! Or, as they would say here, “Namaste”!

This blog post covers the end of our adventure here in Nepal. It’s currently 6pm on May 25th here in Kathmandu. Five of the six team members will fly out tonight and one tomorrow. That will get us all back during Memorial Weekend, which should buy us the time we need to shave, clean up, and get ready for uniformed work on Tuesday. It’s amazing how fast we’ll have gone from living in tents above 20,000ft to proudly wearing our USAF uniforms and rejoining our friends and colleagues at work.

After the big summit push on May 20/21, life changed quickly. The last of our energy reserves were spent, our bodies had been pushed to a new extreme, and now we had to go from 26,000ft (Camp 4) all the way to 9,000ft (Lukla Airport). The final descent from Mt. Everest is one of the most accident-prone parts of the expedition. Climbers are exhausted, but still must navigate steep slopes of ice and rock. There were many other climbers trying to work their way up to Camp 4 as we came down, which posed a problem- how to get around them safely. We would have to unclip from the sole safety rope, hold onto the ascending climbers, reach around them and clip back in behind them. It was a dance we performed many times and with great concentration, but it never got comfortable, as the ice/rock was so steep that a fall when unclipped would be catastrophic.

I personally like going uphill much more than downhill. In fact, I’ve been known to say I’d rather climb something twice than have to descend it. Descending the mountain is much harder on the knees, feet and joints than the slow pace of going uphill. But the team did a great job and quickly descended from Camp 4 (26,000′) to Camp 2 (21,300′) without issue. At Camp 2 we had our first chance to take on water and food since leaving for the summit the evening prior. They say the summit push requires ~12,000 calories, not to mention what was needed for the descent to Camp 2. I’d say our average caloric intake during the summit attempt was about 400 each (when it’s that cold outside, you can’t stop and have a picnic, so most of us ate some energy gel packets at our few breaks), so you can imagine how hungry/exhausted we all were.

Camp 2 was our first chance to check up on Capt Merrin and SSgt Gibson, who had descended before the rest of us. They were luckily doing quite well, given the huge disappointment of having to turn around. However, they both knew the decision was the right one and were proud of making such a difficult decision in a timely manner.

I’ll never forget when Capt Merrin told me he had to turn around. Capt Ackles and I were climbing up a steep pitch and caught up to him on a ledge. It was a bit of a blur of headlamps and other climbers navigating the narrow ledge where he sat, but just as I was about to reach him, I saw two boots sticking out from the snowy ledge- they belonged to a deceased climber that must have been frozen there for a few years. Colin wasn’t aware of the body at the time, so when he told me he had made the decision to return to Camp 4 due to his respiratory infection, I told him it was clearly the right decision, as there was a deceased climber 30′ from us that had likely failed to make such a critical decision. It was a heart breaking moment to know he wouldn’t continue up with us, but I was also terribly proud of him for making such a smart decision. I shake my head as I write this, thinking how tough that call must of been, yet how sure he was that it was the right one.

Anyway, Camp 2 was our opportunity to come together as a team again. Everyone was exhausted and dealing with pains from the previous 24hrs. But by dinner time, after lots of hot juice and snacks, people were regaining a little energy. That night was hard on a lot of the guys- many were up all night coughing. The dry, frigid air and heavy respiratory exerition of passing slower teams during the climb gave or aggravated coughs in most the climbers. In some cases, the coughs were The next morning (22nd) we all made it out of Camp 2 and climbed one last time through the Khumbu Ice Fall. It had been very active since we came through it on the way up- lots of ice had shifted/fallen and new crevasses were open. It was a reminder of the danger of the Icefall, but we also knew it was our last time having to expose ourselves to its unpredictable nature.

Finally back at Everest Base Camp, you’d think we’d break into celebration. However, we didn’t quite have the energy for a whole lot, plus I think all of us were a bit down b/c we didn’t get 100% of the team to the summit. The most we did to celebrate was to have one beer while standing around in our climbing gear, share some stories about the past 36 hrs, and then head to our tents to begin packing. This was also our last day with our Sherpas. As you can imagine, we all became pretty tight with them since we had spent the last few weeks climbing together. We said our goodbyes, gave them tips, and a few of us left them with climbing gear as a form of thanks and to help them upgrade their equipment to safer/more reliable gear.

The next morning, May 22rd, we had breakfast, and hit the trail. Normally this would be a rest day, but we decided to start heading home. Capt Martin wanted to return to his pregnant wife and child, plus the rest of us wanted to limit the amount of leave we were using. So this team of battered climbers headed off on an ambitious nine hour hike up and down rugged trails to a mountain village called Phortse. Much of the hike was in a cloud fog, which kept us cool and helped soothe our heinous coughs. It was nice to see some green as we left the ice/snow behind and descending lower into the valley. Plus, the thicker air was a nice treat. However, the hard hike aggravated toe/foot/knee pains and we all realized the summit push had wiped out most our energy. We rolled into my climbing Sherpa’s trekking lodge just before sunset. Meeting his wife and son was the highlight of the day and they were great hosts for the night, even though we were pretty much zombies by the time the dinner of rice and lentil soup/potatoes came out.

That night was some of the first “good” sleep many of the team got- a bed, roof, and blanket can make a big difference. A few of us continued to struggle with coughs that would keep us up at night, but they were slowly subsiding. In the morning (23rd), we had a breakfast of one fried egg and some Tibetan bread, did a phone interview with the Seattle Times, and then said farewell to Dawa’s family. His wife, a wonderful soul, presented each of us with a traditional scarf that is meant to bring good luck and safe travels (photo attached). We visited the Khumbu Climbing School, which teaches Sherpas the critical skills necessary to safely work as climbing porters/guides among the Himalaya. Many of our Sherpa friends had been students or instructors there. Then it was time to press on with another long day of hiking.

We were moving slower this time than the previous day. Toenails were starting to come off, coughs were causing ribs to separate (terrible painful), and our bodies just ached overall. However, we knew we would recover faster in the thicker air and that getting back to a hot shower and clean clothes in Kathmandu would be a great reward. While the physical discomforts were significant, the natural beauty around us made the trip easier. Attached is a photo of part of the trail- Rhododendron trees were plentiful below Phortse and their beautiful flowers littered parts of the trail. Rivers that were just little creeks when we started this trek were now full of roaring rapids fueled by the melting snow and ice high above.

The team made it into Namche Bazar as our stomachs were growling loudly. We can’t eat a lot at once, b/c our stomachs have shrunk, but we have a huge calorie deficit to make up for‚Ķ so eating was high on our minds as we pulled into this key mountain village. After food, hot drinks, some shopping, a visit to the pharmacy for cough medicine, and a little internet (we wanted to upload summit photos and the pushup video), we pressed on, leaving the warmth and comfort behind for a few more hours on the trail. It was a steep descent, but about three hours later we pulled into Phakding. The trails were now mud and rain-slicked rocks, with thicker vegetation all around. It was quite a change from the ice and rock we left 36 hrs ago.

I laugh thinking how we all looked at this point. It was about 8pm and everyone was spread out among some dining tables, waiting for food to come. It looked like a few would fall asleep sitting up. Our clothes were damp and muddy, beards were scraggly, and we were filthy overall. During dinner, we decided it was best to wake up at 2:30am and hike through the dark to ensure we arrived for our flight in time. The weather in Lukla had been bad for the last few days and there was a large backup of passengers/trekkers/climbers waiting for a flight to Kathmandu. If we missed our flight, we would go to the back of the line. Since we had been waking up at 3am up on Everest, we figured it wouldn’t be an issue to do it again. So we got a few hours of sleep and met for a breakfast of porridge and hot coffee. Our clothes were still wet from the previous day, but the thought of Kathmandu just a few hours away made it seem trivial.

The hike from Phakding to Lukla was fun for me. There’s something I like about walking in the dark, through sleeping villages, and getting the chance to see what’s going on when we’re usually asleep. Before we knew it, we had two dogs accompanying us and even had a goat follow us for a while. It took a lot of shooing and attempts to tie it up, but finally the goat got the idea that we didn’t want it to follow us. The dogs would run around in the dark like little scouts- a bit of entertainment for us as we picked our way through the mud and stones via headlamp.

Finally we arrived in Lukla. Our early departure worked out great- we were there 1.5 hrs before our flight, which gave us time to get a cup of tea/coffee and a bit more breakfast. With little sleep and food in the past 5 days, we were a bit stressed, but we knew once we were on the airplane we’d be fine. There was a bit of confusion regarding the flight and tickets, but soon we were in the small airport getting ready to board our flight. We lucked out- it was the first day of flyable weather in four days. However, our bags from Base Camp hadn’t arrived yet, which was disappointing. It’s never a good idea to fly out without all your gear, but in this case, we had little choice.

I felt a great relief as we touched down in Kathmandu. I knew that once the plane safely landed, we had successfully survived our expedition to Mt. Everest. I could hardly remember starting the trip- it felt like ages ago and so much had happened between now and then. Thanks to our use of Risk Management and teamwork, we all made it through the last 60 days with hardly a scratch and 4/6 climbers on the Top of the World. The expedition was a HUGE success.

We’ve been able to highlight important Air Force values: teamwork, camaraderie, risk management, and physical fitness. From the buzz on Facebook, the insane amount of traffic on our website (it has crashed twice due to the amount of traffic and the server bandwidth had to be quadrupled!), and the excellent press coverage we’ve received, I think it’s safe to say our goal of doing something patriotic and positive has been reached and exceeded. I’m more excited about the success of this 7 Summits team than than reaching the summit of Mt. Everest. That was just a moment in time, but this project will hopefully continue to spread goodwill and encourage Airmen to find news forms of physical fitness and tools to boost resiliency and safety.

Ok, that’s it from Kathmandu. I’m not sure how this blog post got so long, but I hope it was informative and painted a good picture of our last few days. We leave for the airport soon and most of us should be back in America by Sunday the 26th. Much of our luggage is still missing, but it is too late now to do anything about it now. Getting our feet back on American soil is what we’re focused on now‚Ķ can’t wait to be back in the country we love and fight for, and to see the people there that make it such a great home.

“Climb High, Fly Low”


Flower lined trail from Phortse to Namche

Capt Marshall Klitzke receiving good luck scarf from Yanjeen, Maj Marshall’s climbing Sherpa’s wife

Maj Marshall and Yanjeen

The USAF 7 Summits Challenge team’s first meal back in Kathmandu. From left to right: Capt Drew Ackles, (Roger- an Everest climber that joined us for the meal), Capt Marshall Klitzke, Maj Rob Marshall, Capt Kyle Martin, SSgt Nick Gibson and Capt Colin Merrin.

Beaten down, but not broken

May 24th, 2013

We had hoped Rob might be able to post a new blog last night, now that the team is back in Katmandu. We may see one later tonight (once everyone wakes up in Nepal), but for now we can at least report that everyone has made it back to some semblance of a normal existence. The team hiked 40 miles in 18 hours to catch their flight, proving that the promise of a hot shower is strong motivator, even when your body is beaten down by weeks of living at high altitude, restless sleep, and limited appetite. Rob reports that they are a pretty sorry looking group. (Except for the beards, of course…those are looking good, with Nick Gibson and Marshall Klitzke bordering on world-class!) They will no doubt feel better after a few days of sleeping in a real bed and breathing thicker air.

We’ll keep you posted as the team makes it’s way back to the States. We hope to arrange for the team to get out to some Air Force bases to tell their story to fellow Airmen, and they may even get some invites from major media outlets to tell a good-news story for a change. But whatever the news coverage, we always owe a big debt to all of you who followed this epic journey here on our blog, and cheered on the team!

Here’s a picture posted earlier to our Facebook page, of Rob, Kyle, Drew and Marshall at Base Camp after the climb. As you can see from the smiles, the bodies may be hurting, but the spirits are strong!

Base Camp with beer

The Long Road Home

May 22nd, 2013

The team is on the road home. They were all eager to depart the barren world of Base Camp for greener pastures. You can still track their progress on the GPS tracking link; they are making good time down the Khumbu valley. After all they have a plane to catch! Rob was able to send out the photo below, taken with his iPhone at Camp 4 on the South Col. Summit photos were on another camera, and he promised to send those as soon as he could download them and send them out.

Although their spirits are high, the weeks at high altitude have taken their toll. Rob is still battling a bad chest infection and hacking cough, and many of the team have sunburn, bloodshot eyes, and cracked or bleeding toes. As Rob put it “the mountain put up a good fight.” Everyone made an effort to pack on some pounds before this trip, and most have lost 11-17% of their body weight….40 lbs in Kyle Martin’s case. They are all struggling to hold their pants up.

The team will spend the night in the town of Phorste, and Rob has promised more photos tonight if he can get them out.

Marshall, Nick, Colin, Rob, and Drew at Camp 4 on thre South Col, 26,000'

Marshall, Nick, Colin, Rob, and Drew at Camp 4 on thre South Col, 26,000′

Everest Voice Update

May 21st, 2013

A voice check-in by the Everest '13 team. Press the play button to hear how the team of Airmen are doing- it might be an update from the wounded warriors, trekkers, or summit team.