Sunday, December 21, 2008

Planning Future Climbs

Capt Uberuaga and I have been doing a lot of talking about what's next. With the great success on Denali in Spring of '08, we found ourselves looking at just three more peaks in the challenge: Vinson, Everest, and Kosciuszko. We've always planned on using Australia as either a fill in peak to bridge gaps in the schedule, or as our final climb- a way to give everyone a chance to climb the last peak on the challenge with the team (regardless of experience level).

We've decided to put our best foot forward and put Spring 2010 as our benchmark for... Mt. Everest!! Between now and then, we'd like to climb Vinson and we also forsee a return to Denali (June 09?) and/or Aconcagua. What does all this mean for us and our supporters? It's time to get the fundraising and public realtions machine into gear again! In concurrence with our goal of bringing positive media attention to the Air Force and its members, as well as raising awareness for the Special Ops Warrior Foundation, we'll be looking for as much help spreading the word and gathering donations as possible. Everest will be especially important for fundraising, as the team members climbing it will need to raise $30k a person to help cover the climbing expenses. On that particular climb, we'll also be looking for corporate sponsorship to help make our biggest climb the biggest success to date!

If you have any ideas, suggestions, pledges, or support for us, please contact us at:

Thanks again for the great support we've received in the past. This is a dream that is on pace to becoming reality: the US Air Force being the first military in the world to reach the 7 Summits and the first American military team to climb Mt. Everest!!

--Capt Rob Marshall

Thursday, June 12, 2008


At 8:30pm Alaskan time, on the 11th of June, all six members of the USAF 7 Summits Challenge stood triumphantly on the summit of North America!!!

I just got off the phone with the elated team. They are back in their tents at the 17,000ft camp with high winds buffeting their tents. Nearly continuous strong winds with blowing snow made reaching the summit a challenge, but they 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 thousand feet from the summit, they were treated by a visit from the Air Force's F-22 Raptor. Mark Uberuaga said 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!

On the summit they were able to get pictures and videos, as well as enjoy the view. It didn't take nearly as long to descend back down to camp. They plan on staying on schedule (listed in a previous post) and should be to the base camp by the 14th and possibly flying out by the 15th. I don't expect to hear from them for the next day or two, as they focus on getting down the mountain safely.

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. I'm can't express how proud I am 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 our six climbers and all their hard work - Congratulations! Once again the Air Force prevails.

Climb High, Fly Low

Standing By...

I just wanted to let everyone know I haven't received a phone call from the team yet.  No need to worry, as they are most likely returning from the summit and more focused on getting back to camp then calling me!  But you can bet that I'll post an update as soon as I hear from them, regardless of what time they call.

I'm off to bed and wish you all a good night!

Climb High, Fly Low

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Air Force Team Near Summit!

The team is currently at 19,000ft on their way to the 20,300ft summit of Denali!  Mark called to say they were well underway and that he expected to reach the top at 6:30pm Alaskan time.  He reported there were broken clouds and moderate winds, but nothing that looked to be a real issue.  Everyone on the team is feeling healthy- no symptoms of altitude sickness, which is great news as it's the most significant factor that can stop an individual from ascending.  I hate to say it again, but the team is in high hopes!!

The 90th Fighter Squadron has an F-22 that is in the area of the mountain and they will be looking for the team.  If the weather permits, our folks should be getting a highly encouraging flyby from the world's most advanced fighter!

Stay tuned for final word as to todays exciting outcome-


High Winds, No Rush

I flew until 1am last night, but when I got back I had a voice mail from the team.  It turns out they were really pressing ahead and planned on going for the summit yesterday (Tues).  They ended up staying at the 17,000ft camp due to strong winds on the high part of the mountain.  So, today, Wed the 11th, as scheduled, they will be pressing for the summit.  If the weather holds and the winds aren't too high, I hope to get a call from them this afternoon.

It's actually a good thing the strong winds kept them in their high camp, as we would have missed out on a great F-22 Raptor flyby that I've been working on for the past week.  The 90th Fighter Squadron out of Anchorage is doing training today that would have one of their jets near the mountain, so if Mark and the team can pass the word via sat-phone, we'll have two awesome shows of Air Force pride and strength!  I'm really hoping we get some sort of photo as well!

That's it for now- I'm off to work.  We've got the local ABC station coming by my office here in FL to do a piece on the USAF 7 Summits Challenge, so I hope that helps to generate more coverage of this great program.  As always, if any of you have contacts with the media we could use, please let us know!  

--Rob Marshall--
Climb High, Fly Low

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Preparing for the Summit

I got a call around midnight from the team.  As in previous calls, Mark says everything is going very well and everyone is healthy and in high spirits.  The team is at the 17,000ft camp, just 3,000ft below the summit.  The weather has been great and the storm they were worried about didn't impact them.  The highlight of the short call was Mark said they were getting ready to push for the summit.  He said, "We'll go for it tomorrow if the weather holds out".  I'm not sure if he meant today, Tuesday the 10th, or tomorrow as in Wed the 11th.  Our conversation ended as the phone disconnected, so that's all I could get from them.

That means it's time to stay tuned, as the team is almost there!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Weekend Update: Good News Continues

I just got cut off while talking to Mark, but I still got the gist of things.  All continues to go very well for the team!!  Everyone is healthy and in high spirits.  They are taking a scheduled rest break at the 14,000ft camp today.  Yesterday they successfully did a cache-and-carry (took some supplies) up to the 15,400ft camp and then came back down.  Mark says they are loving some sunshine and playing in the snow today, including some skiing and even building an igloo.  

A storm is forecasted to hit soon, so their schedule might be slowed down depending on how strong and sustained the front is.  At best, the team will reach the summit on the Tues the 10th, but they're saying their window is anywhere from Tues-Friday (all dependent on the storm).

The request was made for a very-Happy Birthday wish to Rebecca Deering from Erin VanOosten!  That's a pretty lofty birthday greeting if there ever was one!  Congrats to you Rebecca.

Stay tuned for more details, especially as the team pushes towards the 17,000ft encampment before tackling the summit!

Weather report for McKinley (at 14,000ft and above) during their summit window looks to keep things interesting for the team:




Wednesday, June 4, 2008

4 June Update

I got a call from Mark late last night.  As always, it's tough to communicate, as the SatPhone doesn't let us talk very easily (hard to understand each other).  But that's far better than no communications at all!!  The team is still doing great.  Mark told me about the fantastic weather and even went into detail about the little puffy clouds that were around their camp and the bright sunshine they were spending most the day in.  He also mentioned the 'diamond dust', which are tiny ice particles that are suspended in the air and sparkle in the sunlight, was especially impressive.  

What I wouldn't give to be there with the team right now!!  My cold-weather body is aching to get away from this 90-degree heat and humidity of Florida.

Anyway, they were still on schedule, having just down-climbed to 9700ft, picked up their cache of food/fuel/equipment there, and returned to their camp at 11,200ft.  Hopefully today they were able to take some gear up to 13,500ft or 14,200ft, see how everyone was feeling at that altitude, and then descend back down to 11,200ft.  Tomorrow, as you can see by the schedule below, they will be sleeping about 14,000ft if all goes according to plan.

I'm also happy to mention that the Air Force fighter squadron at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska is working on a flyby of this historic climb.  A F-22 flyby would be fantastic, though any aircraft will be a great addition.  We're really hoping for a good picture of the team on the summit with the flags and maybe even a plane in the background (or a picture from the air, capturing the team on the summit).

So, everything continues to go well.  Thanks for all your support!!!  If you have any media contacts, we'd love to get this story out to more people.  I'd even be happy to just have a few extra people send out letters to their local newspapers/television stations/ and any other organization you think might help (including Congressmen/Senators!).

Climb High, Fly Low

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Team Itinerary

I forgot to post this earlier-  It's Mark's itinerary for the climb.  Obviously dates can change to an earlier or later date, but this should be a great guide to see where the team will go next.  As of the time of this post, they have just reached Camp III.

28 May - Meet at Anchorage Int Airport at 430pm.
Drive to and stay in Talkeetna (Talkeetna Motel).

29 May - 0800 Breakfast at the Roadhouse.
1100 NPS Registry and Briefing.
Gear Prep/Crevasse Rescue Review/Packing at Hudson Hanger
Second night in Talkeetna

30 May - Fly on to Denali Base camp with Bush Pilot.
Leave cache at BC and then proceed single carry to first
camp at 7,800'

31 May - Dept 7800' up "ski hill" to 9700' Camp II - single carry

1 June - Move from 9700' to 11,200' Camp III - half load

2 June - Rest day at 11,200'

3 June - Down carry to get cache from 9700'
Stay at 11,200'

4 June - Carry to 13,500/14,200'
Stay at 11'200'

5 June - Move from 11,200' to 14,200' Camp IV

6 June - Down Carry to get cache at 13,500'
Stay at 14,200'

7 June - Rest Day at 14,200' -Hike to edge of the world.

8 June - Carry to 16,200'
Stay at 14'200'

9 June - Rest Day at 14,200'

10 June - Move from 14,200' to 17,200' Camp V our high camp

11 June - Summit Day
Dept 17,200, climb to 20,320' summit and return to high camp
at 17,200'

12 June - Descend to 11'200'

13 June - Descend to Base Camp

14 June - Fly out with Hudson.

15 June - Check out with NPS.
Drive to Anchorage and fly home


I had my first contact from the team since they started the climb.  They were able to leave me a voice mail using the Sat-Phone they rented before they left.  The quality was fairly good and Mark said they are currently at Camp III, which is at 11,200ft.  Everyone is healthy and working very well as a team.  He sounded very enthusiastic and happy, which doesn't surprise me, as it's a great group of people!!  I'm obviously looking forward to hearing more from them as each day goes by, and I'm sure many of you are also excited for any bit of info!

Mark also wanted me to give a big congratulations to Tim Gannon, who just got promoted to First Lieutenant!  I don't know what they're doing on the mountain to celebrate, but you can bet 'pinning' on rank while climbing Denali will go down as one of the best promotions Tim could have.

-Climb High, Fly Low-

Saturday, May 31, 2008

McKinley Climb Begins!!

I'm very excited to say the USAF 7 Summits Challenge has started it's ascent of the fourth mountain in our bid for the famed 'Seven Summits'- Alaska's Mt. McKinley!!

On the 28th of May, five active duty Air Force officers flew to Alaska. Most had never met before, but we've found that such a group of Airmen form into a very strong team immediately. There's no question this is the case with this group of people. Captain Mark Uberuaga, the trip leader, sent back an e-mail and picture just as the team left on a ski-plane for the base of the mountain. Here is the message from Mark:
The weather in Talkeetna has been great. Our team is looking really good and a few days of high pressure should give us a good chance of getting a good start at the climb. > > Tavis, Tim, Graydon, and Erin have just taken off and they should be arriving at Basecamp shortly. Andrew and I are going to be right behind them, We'll spend only a couple of hours there caching some gear and getting all rigged up, then we'll hit the trail and hopefully make it to our first camp sometime this evening.

Here is a picture of the team just before they departed from Talkeetna.

Updates after this will likely be few and far between, but I'll make sure any information I receive reaches this blog. The team procured a SAT-Phone, so they should be able to make occasional calls out to me and family members. If you receive any updates, please don't hesitate to e-mail them to, so they can be added here. The gang will also use the SAT-Phone to try and coordinate a fly-by from an Air Force aircraft when they are on the summit of the mountain. We're hoping to see an amazing photo from that if it works out.

So, that's the news. It sounds very good to me. We have a strong group of people that all have great skills and personalities to bring to this team. Let's all keep them in our mind and keep spreading the word about this exciting challenge!
By the way- thanks to so many of you donating to our program, I predict we will raise around $20,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation on this climb alone!! That will bring our total for the Challenge to nearly $40k! Thank you so very much, each of you truly make a difference.

--Capt Rob Marshall
Co-Founder, USAF 7 Summits

Monday, January 21, 2008

Denali 08

Everyone- Here is an E-mail from Mark, who will be leading this Denali expedition!! Please spread it out to anyone you think might be interested. Remember, if you are interested, please let us know ASAP by filling out the registration and sending it into Mark. Start talking to your bosses to get June free. I'll be working Permissive TDY so hopefully no one will have to use leave, but there's not guarantee. Talk to you all soon- Rob
Ok everybody - let's do this!

Rob and I have started making plans for our next climb to continue to push our AF team to the top of the 7 Summits! We are really excited to have set some dates to climb the highest mountain in North America -Mt McKinley! (Known to the natives and a lot of climbers as "Denali"). There are a lot of details to be worked out for us as a team, so we're jumping into it full swing early enough to make this a monster success.

Climb dates are as follows:
May 28th: Fly to Anchorage, AK. May 29th: NPS Orientation/Gear Prep. May 30th: Fly on to Denali base camp with Hudson Air. June 28th: Schedule your flight home from Anchorage.

The climb usually doesn't take 30 days, but this extra time helps to increase our chances of success. The weather is often bad, and we need to be flexible enough to wait it out. If we finish early we change our tickets and get back whenever we can.

We are looking for climbers who are motivated, fun to be with and have experience with roped glacier mountaineering. Preferably everyone on the team will have had some expedition training-- in other words, they've climbed a mountain where it was necessary to set and move camp more than once and practiced crevasse rescue.

This climb, as with our others in the past, will be a fundraiser for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Our goal is for each climber to raise $7,000. $5,000 of this will go straight to the Fund and $2,000 will be for the climber to buy a flight to AK, our shuttle expenses, the climbing permit, the cost of our air taxi/bush pilot, food, and gear. We'll help you with pamphlets and fundraising ideas, but it will be up to each person who joins the climb to raise the $7k (this climb we'll be looking to corporations for help, so it shouldn't be hard to do at all!).

If you want to be part of the team go to and read through the registration requirements. Read the National Park Service publication, Mountaineering - Denali National Park and Preserve, which covers search and rescue requirements, clean climbing requirements, high altitude medical problems, glacier hazards, and self-sufficiency. Then download the registration form, fill it out and mail it to me at: Mark Uberuaga, PSC Box 92, Kirtland AFB, NM 87117.

If you're not sure if you have enough of or the right experience, but you really want to go, don't judge yourself. Read the info, fill out the registration form and send it to us. We'll see what kind of interest we have and if and how we need to mitigate for less experience. Our team application is due to the park service by March 28th. I need your applications no later than March 15th, the sooner the better though, because there are a finite number of spots on the team!

Look forward to hearing from you,
Mark Uberuaga

Friday, January 11, 2008

NEW 7 Summits E-mail Address

Folks, just b/c it's far easier, we're switching to a new e-mail:
When we're on the mountain, gmail loads much faster and therefore is more reliable and cheaper (darn sat phone costs!).  Please update accordingly.  This hotmail account will remain open, but won't get checked very often (that's no surprise, eh?!).
Thanks everyone!

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