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June 7, 2001

The Greatest Team That Ever Climbed On Everest

A Record Nineteen Team Members Summit Everest In A Single Day

Erik Weihenmayer and Sherman Bull Make History

The greatest team which ever climbed on Everest! So proclaimed the banner held high yesterday by members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of California as the 13 American climbers from the 2001 Everest NFB Expedition returned triumphantly to Bradley Airport in Los Angeles. Posters, American flags and the American version of Tibetan prayer flags created an exciting setting for the dozens of reporters and TV cameras that were there to record this historic event. Eleven Americans plus 8 Sherpas summited Everest on May 25, the greatest number of climbers from one team to reach Everest?s summit in a single day. The team included the oldest person to summit Everest, Dr. Sherman Bull, age 64, and the first blind person, Erik Weihenmayer.

The turmoil in Nepal following the tragic assassination of the Royal Family there created a dangerous departure situation in Kathmandu, and LA well-wishers were only 95% certain that the team was actually going to emerge from U.S. Customs. Their flight from Kathmandu to Bangkok was cancelled at first, then reinstated before the airport shut down, maybe temporarily. So when they exited Customs as a team, the awaiting crowd burst into applause.

A big summit party was held the night of May 24 in Amelia Island, Florida, to cheer the team on as they followed the progress of their final summit push from Camp 4 (26,000?), via the internet and periodic phone calls from Everest Base Camp. Approaching The Balcony (27,500?), the team seemed to be a remarkable two hours ahead of a targeted schedule, and reports were that Erik, Sherman and the team were climbing very strong. The team seemed to slow dramatically, though, above The Balcony, and they approached Hillary Step only 30 minutes ahead of schedule. No explanation was offered. Now we know that the team climbed through a fierce storm, and found climbing lines which had been previously set buried in snow. The team actually huddled to decide whether to continue on in the storm. It was Base Camp Manager Kevin Cherilla who saw skies clearing above them and urged the team on. So the party goers, concerned for awhile by the reported lack of progress, cheered when the team finally cleared the Hillary Step (28,700?) and then erupted when they heard that Sherman, first, and then others including Erik were standing on top of the world.

Time Magazine will run a feature story on this great team in the issue which hits newsstands June 11. Austin Murray of Sports Illustrated was in LA to talk with team members; his column will appear next week. Erik will be in New York City June 11-12 for Regis on Monday, the Today Show and CBS Early Show on Tuesday. Larry King was scheduled for Monday but the McVeigh execution preempted Everest. We are trying to work a date out with Jay Leno. And we are working with The White House on a visit. When President Bush spoke with Erik at 26,000? and wished the team well on their final summit push, the President said, "We?ll have to get you to The White House.!" Here they come! So it doesn?t appear that this is the final chapter of the Everest story.

A documentary sponsored by the seasonal allergy product Allegra will tell the story to a prime-time TV audience in the Fall. An initial viewing of the footage is VERY exciting. Discussions are already underway about Erik writing a second book. Interest has been expressed in a movie based on Touch the Top of the World plus the Everest story. And Erik has two more mountains to climb - Elbrus and Carstenz Pyramid - to join the elite group of 100 climbers who have scaled the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each of the seven land continents.

For Speaking Engagements: Ed Weihenmayer at 904/321-1938 or [email protected]

For Corporate Events: Leading Authorities at 202/783-0300

For Media: Virginia Remmey, Cohn & Wolfe at 212/798-9511

Erik Weihenmayer?s Website: www. highsightspresentations.com

Everest Website: 2001everest.com

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