Former President George W. Bush Provides Encouragement to Disabled Veterans Embarking on Himalayan Climb
Twelve injured soldiers to join Erik Weihenmeyer in 20,000 foot climb marking tenth anniversary of his historic summiting of Mt. Everest.
GOLDEN, CO, August 4, 2010 – Former President George W. Bush called a group of disabled veteran athletes today to provide encouragement and wish them well as they begin training in the Front Range region of the Rocky Mountains this weekend for an extreme mountain climbing challenge that takes place in October. Known as “Soldiers to the Summit,” World T.E.A.M. Sports organized the expedition of 12 wounded combat veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who will attempt to summit the 20,075 foot peak of Lobuche East, located just 8.7 miles from Mount Everest in the Himalayas, to evidence that people with disabilities can overcome any challenge. Erik Weihenmeyer, who is celebrating the tenth anniversary of becoming the only blind person to summit Mount Everest, will lead the team. Supporting them are many of the same team of climbers that helped Erik reach the summit of Everest ten years ago.
President Bush’s call came as the team, comprised of three women and nine men, gathered in Golden, Colorado before going into the Rocky Mountains. The former President spoke individually with each of the eight military personnel who were present. Among the personal discussions, President Bush and former Airman Zachary Martinez shared some memories of their time at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, where both had served. In addition, the President shared some memories with Erik and members of the Everest team, who he had hosted in the White House after their historic climb in 2001.
Aware that all of the veterans have suffered serious injuries, President Bush told the team that he was “really proud you’re setting an example” for others with disabilities and that he will “support you with my thoughts, prayers and currency.” The former President had stated that he and Mrs. Bush would make a donation to support the soldiers and help defray the expense of the expedition.
“Activities like the Himalayan Expedition prove that exceptional athletes do matter and that people of all abilities can do even the most difficult tasks, not just in sports but in all walks of life,” said Jeff Messner, President of World T.E.A.M. Sports. “By bringing together disabled and able-bodied athletes in difficult challenges that require teamwork and rely on an understanding of one another’s competence, we hope to educate all people about the capabilities of those with a physical handicap.“
On October 1st, the team will depart for Nepal where they will attempt to summit the peaks of Lobuche East and Kala Pattar mountains in the Himalayas. This extraordinary challenge includes seven days of trekking through the spectacular Khumbu region to a Base Camp at 16,269 feet. After a day of rest, the team will then climb slabby terraces and snow slopes beneath the main glaciers of the South-West Face of Lobuche East. At the point where the glacier face and ridge meet, they will establish a high camp at 18,305 feet. On the 13th day of this difficult trek, the team will then attempt to summit the 20,075 foot peak of Lobuche East. This is a technical rock, snow, and ice climb of great difficulty. Thereafter, the team will spend as many as six days working their way back down and return to Kathmandu. More information about the expedition, the participating veterans and support team, as well as how to donate to this cause can be found at the expedition webpage.
“This expedition will be the living embodiment of our longstanding motto – we give courage to others to do great things by our own examples of doing great things,” according to Erik Weihenmeyer. “In concert with the incredible team of climbers who helped me make history ten years ago, we decided that there would be no more fitting way to celebrate the anniversary of that achievement than to provide that same example for the many brave men and women who were injured in their service to our country by leading a team of injured veterans on a similar journey.”
To prepare for the challenges of Nepal and the summiting of Lobuche East, the team will begin their training this weekend on two peaks near Idaho Springs, Colorado. While a few of the veterans have done some prior climbing, none are experienced with the difficulties of the challenge they face and many have never climbed at all. On Thursday, the team will hike into the mountains and set up a base camp at the foot of St. Mary’s Glacier. On Friday, they will climb St. Mary’s Glacier in order to practice ascending on fixed lines, rope travel, clipping on & off safely, the use of crampons for climbing, and learn how to self-arrest in the case of falls. On Saturday, the team will do more climbing and hiking on both James Peak, at over 13,000 feet, to acclimate to weather, altitude and build up their endurance.
The training and the expedition itself have been partially underwritten by sponsorships from a wide variety of companies and individuals, including ADS, Bent Gate Mountaineering, Boy Scouts of America, KFC, La Sportiva, Motorola, Ocean Spray, Outward Bound, Pershing Securities, Polartec, Raytheon, Sanfilippo, and West Pharmaceuticals.
About World T.E.A.M. Sports
Since 1993, World T.E.A.M. Sports has been using the power of adaptive sports to provide opportunities to individuals living with a disability by having people of all abilities join together to overcome soul-stirring athletic challenges. In an effort to change the way the world views athletes of all abilities. World T.E.A.M. Sports hosts a variety of challenging athletic events to promote inclusion and T.E.A.M.work, thereby educating people and communities about true human ability while enabling individuals to realize their own. A registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, World T.E.A.M. Sports is more than an organization, it is a movement to change the way the world perceives all athletes.