SEATTLE, June 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Eddie Bauer First Ascent Guides, Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot returned home this week from two months in Nepal as part of an Eddie Bauer expedition to commemorate the historic Everest summits of 1963. That year marked two major achievements for American Mountaineering - Jim Whittaker became the first American to summit Mt. Everest along with his Sherpa partner, Nawang Gombu. Three weeks later, Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld summited via the unclimbed West Ridge, one of the most difficult routes on Everest that turns around even some of the best climbers of today.
This year's Eddie Bauer team, led by Hahn, summited safely via the South Col and returned to base camp with their own historic accomplishments. Hahn now holds the record for summits by any non-Sherpa at 14, and Arnot has now summited four times, the most of any woman in history. They were accompanied by Leif Whittaker, Jim's son, who retraced the footsteps his father made during the historic 1963 expedition, and cinematographer and photographer Kent Harvey.
"Eddie Bauer has a rich history on Everest, and this year's expeditions not only commemorate the historic accomplishments of the past, but continue to drive American mountaineering forward," said Damien Huang, senior vice president of merchandising at Eddie Bauer. "We are proud to still be a part of the Everest story, and thrilled that all of our climbers have arrived home safe and sound."
Hahn's Everest experience has changed slowly over the course of twenty years on the mountain. "I didn't expect to summit those first few years whereas I do now, which leaves me with some extra energy and brain power to look around and enjoy the view," stated Hahn. "That wasn't as easy to do on those first climbs when I was working so hard to survive. I'm also about twenty years older than I used to be when I first summited... I blame Everest."
Hahn is recognized as a record-setting, world-renowned guide, climbing a number of the world's highest peaks. In addition to Everest, Hahn has summited Vinson Massif, Antarctica's highest peak, 29 times as well as Mt. Rainier over 250 times as a guide for RMI. He has also summited Alaska's Mt. McKinley 20 times over the past 25 years. Hahn is also a recipient of the Citizen's Award for Bravery from the U.S. Department of the Interior for a rescue on Mt. Rainier in 2002, and was a key member of the historic expedition in 1999 that resulted in the discovery of George Mallory's remains on Everest's North Face.
Since beginning her career as a professional mountain guide in 2004, Melissa Arnot has secured herself a spot among the most iconic female mountaineers in history. By 2006, Arnot became a lead guide for RMI on Mt. Rainier, which she has now summited over 90 times, among other significant peaks in the Himalaya, South America and Africa, including Aconcagua, Ama Dablam and Kilimanjaro. Her historic achievements on Everest began in 2008, working as an assistant guide with Everest Team Inspi(RED) to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, followed by Eddie Bauer's Return to Everest in 2009 and another successful attempt in 2010.
"I never thought I would be lucky enough to summit Everest once, let alone four times," Arnot said after returning from her latest expedition. "This experience has given me a sense of gratitude grounded in the idea that anything is possible."
The 2012 Eddie Bauer Everest Expedition also included a West Ridge route team. Lead by Eddie Bauer First Ascent Guide Jake Norton, the team included Brent Bishop, Charley Mace and Eddie Bauer First Ascent Guide David Morton, all of whom are accomplished climbers on Everest.
Jake Norton has summited Everest three times, and was also part of the team that discovered the body of George Mallory on Everest in 1999. Bishop, who has previously summited Everest twice, was attempting to retrace the same footsteps his father, the late legendary climber Barry Bishop, made during the historic 1963 expedition. Charley Mace was a filmmaker and guide on the Everest expedition that helped blind climber Erik Weihenmayer reach the summit in 2001, while David Morton has reached the summit of Everest six times.
However, the West Ridge proved once again to be an arduous route to the summit. Due to a combination of dry and icy conditions, which increased the difficulty of the route, and the team's minimal climbing style, the team abandoned their attempt to summit via the West Ridge.
"In 1963, Hornbein and Unsoeld embraced the unknown in their audacious climb of the West Ridge. Their ascent opened a whole new chapter in Himalayan mountaineering, showing that heading onto an untried route and cutting the umbilical cord was in fact possible," said Norton. "Fifty years later, with many things having changed on Everest, the West Ridge remains a massive challenge with totally uncertain outcomes. To me, it proves that, contrary to some opinions, Everest is far from irrelevant."
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