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At 8:30pm Alaskan time, on the 11th of June 2008, six members of the USAF 7 Summits Challenge stood triumphantly on the summit of North America!!!
Nearly continuous strong winds with blowing snow made reaching the summit a serious challenge, but the team took a few breaks and made a press for the top when the weather was right. Other than the windy, cold weather, all went off without a hitch.
As the team climbed on, just a short distance from the summit, they were treated to a surprise other team members had arranged: a roaring visit from the Air Force's F-22 Raptor. Capt Mark Uberuaga, climb leader, said via satellite phone that they all stopped and watched with pride, "as everyone on the mountain knew the Air Force had reached the top". He said that with a lot of emotion in his words, clearly moved by the moment and the gravity of this accomplishment. Our hats go off to the men and women of the 90th Fighter Squadron for the great show of Air Force support and airpower!
The climb from the glacier landing strip all the way to the summit went especially smooth. Sunshine and excellent weather kept the team on a fast timeline, while still allowing acclimatization breaks of excellent skiing and exploring. They even found time to help the National Park Service dig latrine holes in the snow!
So that's #4 out of 7!! We really only have two serious climbs left: Antarctica and Asia, as Australia's peak isn't very difficult and the logistics of that trip will be fairly simple. From here we'll be looking to build even more support for the 7 Summits Challenge, as we're going to need a lot of it from the Pentagon and some sponsorship from organizations to reach the rest of our peaks.
We can't express how proud we are that this mountaineering challenge continues to gain steam thanks to the effort of our climbers and all of those who support them. What's especially impressive is the fact we have maintained a 100% success rate since this project started. That's practically unheard of with the number of climbers we have and the wide variety of experience. It's a great sign of Air Force member's fortitude, fitness, and drive.
Here's to the six Airmen climbers and all their hard work - Congratulations! Once again the Air Force prevails.