Journey to the top of Everest: Summit resident prepares to embark on quest to climb illustrious peak
While living in Summit County, it is common to hear about people’s escapades up local and nearby mountains. Locals and visitors alike will often spend the majority of the late spring and early fall bagging peaks for the adventure and stories that come with climbing into the thin mountain air.
Summit resident Kevin Cook is no stranger to these escapades. Cook has not only climbed several notable 14ers in Summit County and across Colorado, but has also climbed several of the world’s tallest mountains.
The seven summits of the world — often simply titled as the seven summits — the highest mountains on the seven continents across the globe. Most commonly comprised of North America’s Denali, South America’s Aconcagua, Africa’s Kilimanjaro, Europe’s Mount Elbrus, Antarctica’s Mount Vinson, Oceania’s Carstensz Pyramid (also known as Puncak Jaya) and Asia’s Mount Everest, the seven summits are traveled to from near and far in order for individuals to stand at the very top of the world.
To complete one summit of the world is a feat in itself, but Cook has been on a mission to complete all seven since 2013 — around the same time he moved to Summit County.
“I have always liked climbing 14ers,” Cook said. “Several years ago a friend of mine asked if I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro and I said sure. One thing led to another and I have been working on the seven summits ever since.”
Cook climbed Kilimanjaro in 2013, Aconcagua in 2016, Carstensz Pyramid in 2018, Denali in 2019 and Elbrus a little after Denali.
With five of the seven summits checked off the list, Cook — who serves as a research compliance consultant — has set his eyes on one of the tallest and one of the most illustrious peaks in the world, Mount Everest.
Cook says when he first started climbing some of the seven summits of the world he wasn’t particularly attracted to the idea of summiting Mount Everest’s 29,032 feet.
“My original plan was to climb six of the seven summits and not climb Everest,” Cook said. “But then a good friend of mine up here said, ‘Do you really want to be a crotchety old man who says he could have climbed all seven, but you only climbed six?’ I said you know what you’re right and I am not going to be that crotchety old man who could have climbed all seven of them. I am actually going to do it.”
Everest is not only known for being the tallest point above sea level, but is also known for being technical because of its steep ice walls and moraines.
“The ice fall region is the most dangerous and you have to be comfortable with crampons and an ice axe,” Cook said. “Really at the end of the day it is about being patient, methodical and consistent.”
With lots of experience from more technical peaks like Carstensz Pyramid and consistent general fitness training with Crossfit Breckenridge, Cook feels well prepared for his journey up Everest.
Many may be scared to take on such a big feat, especially considering that, for almost every legendary Mount Everest summit, there are two Everest horror stories about the unpredictable weather and dangers.
“I think it is just the unknown,” Cook said. “You got weather, you have avalanche risks and then you could be the most healthy person in the world and get high-altitude cerebral edema. Your body responds unexpectedly to the elevation and you are not able to summit. It is the natural phenomenons and how your body reacts to the elevation.”
Despite the unknown and lore of the mountain, Cook is heading into his adventure with a good mentality and feels content for whatever he may encounter with his the Seattle-based Alpine Ascents International climbing team.
“I think content is the right word,” Cook said. “At the end of the day, you worry about what you can control and not worry about what you cannot control. What happened in those disaster books and movies are often out of our control. Focus on what you feel and what you can do. Be realistic about what your body is telling you.”
Beyond being prepared for the climb, Cook is also looking forward to disconnecting from the real world and enjoying the beauty of Everest.
“Disconnecting is always recharging for me,” Cook said. “It is refreshing. I like to push myself, I like to see what I can do. I like to be away from the crowds and around people who are very focus driven.”
Cook will begin his journey to Everest by first flying to Austin, Texas, on March 27, before making the trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 1. On April 5 Cook and his team will then fly to Lukla in Nepal to begin the trek to base camp. The team plans to be at base camp around April 15 and then have a window to summit Everest in mid-May.
“The community and my friends and colleagues up here have been super supportive and I really appreciate that,” Cook said. “I am really excited to see how things go.”
Those interested in following along on Cook’s journey up Everest can follow the Alpine Ascents cybercast at AlpineAscents.com.
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