Montana State University

MSU geology professor heads for Mount Everest

March 16, 2012 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


MSU graduate Travis Corthouts, left, and geology professor Dave Lageson test global positioning equipment on the MSU campus in advance of their expedition to Mount Everest. The equipment will be used to accurately measure the height of Mount Everest. (MSU photo by Kelly Gorham).    High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
BOZEMAN - A Montana State University geology professor plans to climb Mount Everest this spring, conduct research on the way and share the experience as it happens with classrooms across Montana.

Professor of Geology David Lageson and world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker will leave Bozeman on March 18 for an expedition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Mount Everest.

Anker -- team captain of The North Face climbing athlete team and a non-degree graduate student in MSU's Department of Earth Sciences -- will lead an American team up the West Ridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first successful American ascent of Mount Everest in 1963, particularly the first ascent of the West Ridge and the first complete traverse of the mountain. The expedition is sponsored by National Geographic, The North Face, MSU and National Science Foundation EPSCoR.

Lageson - who oversees Anker's graduate studies -- will climb the South East Ridge route of Everest with other team members who are sponsored athletes of The North Face, including MSU alumnus Kristoffer Erickson and MSU geology alumnus Travis Corthouts. If all goes as planned, the two teams will meet at the top of Mount Everest and descend together down the South East Ridge route. The mountain, sitting on the border between Nepal and Tibet, is the world's tallest mountain if measured from sea level to summit. The elevation is 29,035 feet, approximately six times higher than Bozeman.

Lageson, 61, has climbed several 14,000-foot peaks in his home state of Colorado. He has climbed in the Teton Range in western Wyoming and numerous peaks in western Montana. His primary work on the expedition will focus on "telling the geologic story of Mount Everest" to schools throughout Montana, as part of an NSF EPSCoR-funded education/outreach program created by MSU's Extended University. In addition, Lageson is planning several research projects to help answer the many questions that remain about the geological history of Mount Everest. Lageson specializes in structural geology, the tectonics of mountain building, and the structural geology and tectonic evolution of the Rocky Mountains.

Extended University, the Montana NSF EPSCoR program and the climbers have developed a variety of ways to share the Mount Everest experience as it happens. Extended University has built an MSU-based website at http://www.montana.edu/everest/ that will allow visitors to follow and interact with the climbers. Anker plans to participate in a blog that will be posted onto Facebook and other social media. It will be more educational and less introspective than many Everest blogs have been, Anker said.

The outreach team also developed classroom curriculum that targets fifth graders but could be adapted for other ages. Mount Everest "teacher kits" will go to Montana teachers who applied in advance and were selected to receive them. The kits contain some of the same equipment that the climbers will use, including professional GPS units, geologic rock hammers, digital cameras, weather-proof notepads, space pens, National Geographic maps and more. The kits also contain prayer flags, which reflect the Buddhist culture in that region. Several companies and professional organizations contributed to the kits. For a complete list, go to http://www.montana.edu/everest/sponsors.htm

Lageson and Anker are leaving Bozeman approximately two months before their ascent, because they need time to adjust to the altitude, Lageson said. He and Anker will fly to Katmandu, Nepal, and then fly to the small mountain village of Lukla, where the elevation is approximately 9,300 feet. From there, they will hike slowly to Everest Base Camp (EBC) at an elevation of approximately 17,600 feet. No one will ride animals or vehicles. After spending time at base camp to further acclimate to the high elevation, making short day hikes to even higher elevations and conducting geologic field work near Everest, the climbers will gradually set up a succession of camps to the summit.

"It can be a multi-week process to go from base camp to the summit," Lageson said. "For the route I will be taking (South Col), there will be four main camps between the base camp and the summit."

Lageson said his participation in the expedition grew out of his friendship with Anker, who has already climbed Everest twice and was a member of the team that found the body of legendary British climber George Mallory on Mount Everest. Anker, now 49, and Lageson met a few years ago at the Bridger Bowl ski area where Lageson discussed his mountain research, and Anker talked about mountain climbing and his interest in becoming more involved in academics and giving back to the younger generation through education.

For a related press release, see "Mountaineer Conrad Anker to lead spring 2012 expedition to Mount Everest with support of National Geographic and The North Face."

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu