On top of the world

Middle school teacher planning to climb, conduct research on Mount Everest

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Matt Tredway feels like a child about to attend his first day of school -- there's a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach, and he questions whether he will succeed.

On Thursday, Tredway, a science and math teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, will embark on a 60-day expedition that he hopes will lead him to the summit of the world's highest mountain.

"I always thought about (Mount) Everest," Tredway said last week from his sixth-grade classroom. "But I didn't let myself think about it because it was so unattainable."

Still, Tredway has trained for such an expedition for years, and the trip began to come together in the fall.

Climbing is just a hobby for Tredway, who last year summitted Alaska's Denali (Mount McKinley). Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet, is two vertical miles higher than Denali.

Tredway doesn't want to set his expectations too high.

"It would be an unbelievable bonus to make it (to the top)," he said.

"There is a lot of down time," Tredway said. There will be a lot of time to think about unpredictable mountain weather, high winds, high altitude, possible health complications and many other variables.

"If we get (to the summit), every star has to be aligned," he said. "I worry about obvious injuries. I worry about being gone so long and severely missing my family and friends. I worry about things out of my control.

"A cough can create a scenario where you can't advance."

Tredway will be part of Team No Limits, a group of seven climbers who will have, at most, 30 minutes to spend on the top of the world before descending. Remaining at the summit any longer could subject them to extreme afternoon weather and the onset of darkness.

The team first will have to pass through a series of life-threatening obstacles to reach the summit.

After the team rises above 26,000 feet, they enter the "Death Zone." It is generally at this point that the human body loses its ability to continue acclimating to altitude.

The team also will have to pass over the Cornice Ridge, which drops 10,000 feet on one side and 8,000 feet on the other.

Tredway says he understands the danger involved in this expedition. He equates it to the danger people face every day driving cars.

"Avoiding danger is no more safe than outright exposure to danger," Tredway said.

Tredway, who has a wife and two daughters, said his family was given full veto power when the trip was confirmed.

"I would not have done it if they said no," he said.

He'll keep in contact with family members and his students with a satellite phone. Team No Limits also will update its Web site using laptops powered by a solar collector that looks like a Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad.

The trip will be more than a climbing expedition.

The team will conduct scientific research relating to pulmonary hypertension, a medical condition brought on by exposure to high altitudes.

In collaboration with the Department of Hypertension and Vascular Biology at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Team No Limits is designing a study to

test and compare the effects of altitude on blood levels of Western climbers and Sherpas, an ethnic group of people from the most mountainous region of Nepal. The team also is raising money for the American Lung Association.

Climbing Everest is expensive.

It will cost just less than $50,000 per climber. Ford Motor Co. sponsored Tredway's trip, and he's been training hard.

He started training for Mount Everest years ago. His training regime involves running, lifting weights, skiing bumps and long ice climbs with his friends.

He also hikes Mount Werner at night. Tredway said he owes thanks to the women at the Steamboat Pilates & Fitness Center, "who methodically beat the crap out of me."

Tredway already has learned how rewarding doing something of this magnitude can be.

"I look at the support I've gotten, and it's staggering," Tredway said. "This is a crazy town. It is so, so, so supportive and so, so generous. If nothing else, I've experienced that."

Tredway returns to Steamboat on June 6. But don't call him -- he'll be sleeping for at least three days.

For more information about the details of his expedition and to follow its progress, go to www.nolimitsclimbing.com.

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