Providing expeditions
since 2005
30 July 2010, 17:21

Charlie Wittmack plans a new slant on climbing Everest, by completing a triathlon that is being publicized as the possibly the toughest human endurance event yet conceived.

The 33-year-old practising lawyer from Iowa, who is also involved with the Department of Global Health at Des Moines University, starts in the UK with a 275-mile swim down the Thames to the sea and then across the English Channel to France.

From there he is planning to cycle 9,000 miles across Europe and Asia to reach the Bay of Bengal, his projected route taking in Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan and China.

He will then run c950 miles from sea level up to the Nepalese Himalaya, where he hopes to finish his odyssey on the summit of Everest.

Wittmack’s journey through 12 countries is planned to take 11 months, and is, inevitably, being documented by a film crew.

This is no hair-brained project from an inexperienced adventurer. For a start, Wittmack has already climbed Everest. In 2003 he reached the summit with a Sherpa companion in arduous conditions on their third attempt. His success on the world's highest peak came after seven years of ascents on well-known major summits around the globe.

He's also trekked across East Africa, sailed the Indian Ocean in a handmade boat, and made a c5,000-mile cycle ride across the United States.




The English Channel remains his bête noire. In early 2008 he was placed first in the 32nd Annual Swim around Key West, a notoriously difficult marathon ocean race. However, during August that year, 15 miles into his attempt on the Channel, he was pulled out hypothermic and unconscious.

The World Tri, as the project is billed, is also attempting to raise money for education and global health. But not for the Triathlon itself, which is being totally financed by Wittmack and his wife Cate, who is a writer focused on maternal health and childhood education.

Keeping to schedule is important. It's difficult to get permission to swim the Channel and his pre-booked launch date is the 2nd August.

Wittmack also needs to reach China's border with Kyrghyzstan by the end of October, in order to allow enough time to cross the Tibetan Plateau to India before winter sets in.

But if all goes to plan he should be at Everest Base Camp before May 2011, in order to make an attempt on the summit.

Already, Wittmack has had to deal with a minor setback. Eight days into his swim down the Thames, he inadvertently took a small sip of water, spent that night being violently ill, and ended up having his first experience of the National Health System in a Maidenhead hospital.

He recovered swiftly and is currently around half way through the swim.

By Lindsay Griffin