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Archives on the Air 273: Summiting Mount Everest – Luther G. Jerstad papers

Some people have the urge to climb the highest peaks on earth. Luther Jerstad was one of them. Jerstad described climbing as the chance to pit “intelligence, skill and resourcefulness against the relentless forces of nature”.

A team of American climbers and sherpas spent months acclimating in base camps in Nepal prior to the Mount Everest summit attempts of May of 1963.

Harrowing experiences were the order of the day. Avalanches were frequent. The collapse of an ice wall killed climber Jake Breitenbach, a 27-year-old from Wyoming. It took seven agonizing hours to make the final push to the top. And Jerstad and his climbing partner ran out of oxygen at the summit. The descent back to camp was equally challenging. Four members of the team had to spend the night on the exposed mountain, without tents or sleeping bags.

Explore the Luther G. Jerstad papers at UW’s American Heritage Center to learn more about the first American expedition to summit Mount Everest.