Monday, 21 January 2013 14:23

Teenager scales heights in South Pole

Taylor Sweitzer Taylor Sweitzer

Chicago TribuneBy Bob Chiarito, Special to the Tribune

Danger may not be his middle name, but adventure certainly seems to be in the genes of 18-year-old Taylor Sweitzer.
Sweitzer, of Wilmette, skied to the South Pole and reached...

the summit of Mt. Vinson, the highest mountain in Antarctica, on Jan. 19. At 16,040 feet above sea level, it is considered the coldest and most remote of the earth's "seven summits."

Sweitzer made the journey with a team from Polar Explorers, a Wilmette adventure company run by his father, 58-year-old Rick Sweitzer. The team consisted of 14 people from all over the world and was led by Morton Grove resident Keith Heger.
A few hours after making the Mt. Vinson summit, Sweitzer, working as assistant guide, ascended back with his team to high camp, at 12,400 feet above sea level, where he was able to speak to a reporter from a satellite phone.

"We were on the mountain four days, and it's been warmer then expected," Sweitzer said. "Of course, conditions were 'normal' when we made it to the summit today." For Sweitzer, the definition of "normal" consisted of winds at 25 knots and a temperature of -25 Celsius.
Heger, also speaking from high camp, said the team took a charter flight to the Union Glacier base camp in Antarctica, where they skied 68 miles to the South Pole. After reaching the South Pole, half the team was done with their adventure. The remaining seven members flew on a chartered plane to Mt. Vinson base camp, where after a two-day storm delay, they made a successful journey to high camp and then to the summit. For Heger, it was his second time reaching the Mt. Vinson summit.
"The views from the summit were stunning, 360-degree views," Heger said.

A notable accomplishment by itself, for Sweitzer, it is only part of a larger strategy. At 15, he became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole. Now reaching the South Pole and the summit of Mt. Vinson, he is a couple steps closer to becoming the youngest person to complete what adventurers consider the "grand slam" — reaching the summit of the highest point of each continent plus the North and South Poles.

Sweitzer was already looking ahead to his next adventure, which if goes according to plan, will be when his father and he attempt to climb Cerro Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America.

Rick Sweitzer, who started Polar Explorers 30 years ago, said if they reach the 23,000-foot summit, it will be the highest that both have climbed. Like his son, he continued to look ahead and spoke of possibly attempting the ultimate goal of most adventurers — the 29,000 foot summit of Mount Everest in March. He added that the cost is almost as steep as the mountain — at approximately $100,000.

"The cost to either pole is between $65,000 and $80,000 per climber so I'm thinking of trading services with adventure companies that go to Everest," Rick Sweitzer said. "Of course, this is all talk until we do it."





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