Eric Meyer, center, and Chhiring Dorje Sherpa prepare to climb Mount Fuji earlier this week in Japan. The pair planned to lead a group of United States service members to the summit on Independence Day as a way to thank them for their service and honor all who have served.
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs climber Eric Meyer has traveled high on the flanks of many of the world’s tallest and most dangerous mountains, navigating deadly, avalanche-prone slopes in air so thin it can kill.
Mount Fuji, the tallest peak in Japan, doesn’t figure to provide any of the challenges Meyer has elsewhere confronted.
Still, Meyer had little trouble summoning enthusiasm for his trip to climb that nation’s signature peak, a quest, if all went according to plan, he completed at sunrise this morning with his trusted climbing partner, Chhiring Dorje Sherpa, Steamboat Springs’ Rob Powers and two crews of United States military members.
“It’s a very special place in Japanese culture, and sunrise on Mount Fuji is particularly notable because of how beautiful it is,” Meyer said. “This climb is a way of honoring our troops, but also showing appreciation for the beauty of that mountain.”
The trip is associated with Powers’ American300 foundation, which strives to organize activities to motivate and honor America’s service members.
In another of the organization’s ongoing projects, Powers arranged for Routt County hunting guide Ken Recker to travel to a base in Kyrgyzstan to help service members learn the ropes at the station’s recently opened archery range.
The idea for the Fuji trip was born on one of Powers’ previous trips overseas when he visited with the Army’s 83rd Ordnance Battalion, which had rushed to the aid of the Japanese people after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The unit’s soldiers had a plan to climb Fuji for a July 4 sunrise at the same time as a Marine unit. It didn’t take long for Powers to brainstorm a way to enhance their experience.
“I told them the foundation would love to offer support and asked if they’d be interested in a couple world-renowned climbers coming to help,” Powers said. “They were knocked off their feet when I sent them the information about Eric and Chhiring.”
At 12,388 feet, Fuji is less than half the height of Mount Everest, which Meyer summited in 2004. With hundreds of thousands of summits every year, Fuji is climbed nearly 1,500 times more every year than K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain, which Meyer attempted in 2008, has ever been.
“But of course they want to take the hardest route,” Meyer said.
Fuji seems little more than a bump for Dorje, who summited K2 and has become a regular on the slopes of Everest, which he’s topped more than 10 times.
In fact, he was working his way up that mountain again this spring when Powers called to ask if he’d help.
“He was between Camp 2 and Camp 3 and said ‘yes’ right there on his satellite phone,” Powers said. “He found out what I was doing and that Eric was coming and said, ‘I’m in.’”
It won’t be all about the climb. Meyer, a doctor with expertise in high-altitude health, will lead talks about working and living at altitude, important for service members on duty in the mountains of Afghanistan.
And it won’t be all about mountains, either.
“They’ve been doing disaster relief in Japan for the last couple of months, and this is a way to help them relax, to have some fun,” Meyer said. “Summiting Mount Fuji on July 4 is a way of honoring the efforts of our troops who have been over there, who are still there, and those who haven’t come back, letting them know what a terrific job we all think they’re doing.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com