Aug 312006
 
Authors: DAVID GILBERT The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Greg Newman has already made one uphill climb by beating cancer.

Now he’s out to make another one by climbing the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.

Newman, 33, plans on joining the CSU Outdoor Adventure Program’s expedition to climb Mount Aconcagua in Argentina over winter break.

The research associate at the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory was diagnosed with cancer at age 28 and has been on chemotherapy for five years.

“I need to do a challenge to prove to myself I’m healthy again,” he said.

The five expedition members are planning to leave for Argentina Dec. 26 – early summer in the Southern Hemisphere – where they will climb 22,840-foot Mount Aconcagua in the Andes Mountains. They plan to return Jan. 15, spending 17 days on the mountain.

Newman has been training hard for the climb.

“Yesterday I ran 16 miles,” Newman said at his home Sunday. “Two weeks ago I did the Wild West Relay. I was captain of a team that ran from Fort Collins to Steamboat. It was pretty intense.”

A Colorado Mountain Club team leader, Newman has climbed 39 of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners and has experience with sport rock climbing.

“All my life I’ve had a draw to the mountains,” Newman said. “They build character, emotional stability and physical stability.”

The trip won’t be cheap. Climbing permits for North American climbers cost $500.

Business management major Andrew Zimmerman withdrew close to $4,000 from his savings to pay for the trip.

“My parents aren’t too happy about that,” said Zimmerman, 22. “I tried explaining it, but they don’t really understand.”

Zimmerman, who has also traveled to Europe, Australia and New Zealand, calls the Aconcagua expedition “the opportunity of a lifetime.”

“Aconcagua offers a lot of opportunity for students to test their limits,” said Jan Rastall, coordinator of Resources for Adult Learning, one of three experienced guides that will lead the expedition.

Rastall, 49, feels confident about the expedition – her third to Aconcagua.

“I have no fears. I’ve been on the mountain,” she said. “I have complete respect for Aconcagua.”

Also leading the expedition will be Rastall’s husband, associate director of Pingree Park Pat Rastall, and Seth Webb, Study Abroad coordinator.

Emergency rescue will be available for injured climbers.

“We’ve never had any emergencies on our expeditions,” Rastall said. “We have a solid record of safe expeditions.” She added that the only thing that is out of the group’s control is the weather.

The expedition will climb through the Guanacos Valley, a seldom-used route up the mountain.

“It’s a much more pristine valley, with a lot less traffic and unsightly rubbish,” Rastall said.

On her last trip up the mountain, her group saw a few of the valley’s namesake animal: guanacos, which are similar to llamas.

Despite the extreme altitudes, the group will not need oxygen tanks as climbers of Mount Everest do, Rastall said. The team climbs the mountain in a stair step fashion, by moving their gear to the next higher camp, then returning to their tents for the night. The next day, they haul the tents up to the level of the gear. In effect, this means the team will climb the mountain twice, allowing plenty of time for team members to adjust to the thinning atmosphere. The heaviest packs the team members will carry will weigh about 80 pounds.

Essential to the success of the expedition, Jan said, is the development of a close-knit team mentality.

“This will require everyone to work together and support each other,” she said.

The team leaders held an informational meeting Thursday for expedition members and interested newcomers.

About a dozen people attended, of whom four were committed members of the expedition. The expedition currently has seven committed members.

For Newman, all the planning in the world can’t allay some apprehension about the trip.

“The whole trip makes me nervous,” he said. “I’ve never been in a tent for 17 days. I’ve never hiked above 14,000 feet. I’m fine not summiting, but I wouldn’t be fine if I held up the team.

“Mountains provide a challenge, an experience that gives me perspective on the other challenges in my life. I’ll grow as a person, regardless of how I do on this trip. That’s how mountains treat people.”

Staff writer David Gilbert can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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Interested applicants should contact Assistant Director for Outdoor Adventure Rodney Ley at rodney.ley@colostate.edu. The deadline for applying for the expedition is Sept. 8.

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