Maryland man on top of the world

Sun Staff

His dream is reality. Chris Warner has made it to the top of the world.

The Baltimore County man reached the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest at 3:30 a.m. EDT. He is believed to be the first Maryland residentto accomplish the mountaineering feat.

Warner, 36, posed for pictures with several climbing partners and left some mementos: a gold cross given to him by a nun in New Jersey and a pointing device used by a quadriplegic who followed Everest expeditions until his death last year.

It took two months for the international expedition, led by New Zealander Russell Brice, to reach the summit by the North Face, a lesser-used and more technically challenging route. Much of the time wasspent equipping camps on the mountainside and getting used to the thin air at high altitude.

Team members had to overcome weeks of heavy snow and high winds to succeed. Two British members of the expedition dropped out. Warner, a guideon the trip, was felled by a respiratory infection in early May that threatened his chances of climbing.

But this trip ended better than last year when Warner, another guide and two Sherpas were trapped in tents in a blinding snowstorm at 25,000feet and had to fight their way through avalanche conditions to safety below. They were the last team off the mountain last season.

In an e-mail message from the mountain, Warner called the situation “a living hell,” but also expressed bitter disappointment.

“Even the obvious reasons aren’t easy to accept. At the moment I realized that our summit bid was over, I also realized how badly I wantedto climb Everest. The tears were spontaneous and instantaneous. The disappointment was so powerful,” he wrote.

This time, however, it was tears of joy that Warner wept. Brice’s team also included three other Americans: guide Andy Lapkass, Ellen Millerand Owen West. Another member of the expedition, Evelyn Binsack, wants to claim the honor of being the first Swiss women to summit via the NorthFace.

Extreme snowboarder Marco Siffredi of France has decided to descend Everest via snowboard, also a first. By the time this climbing season ends later this month, slightly more than 1,000 individuals willhave conquered Everest, which straddles the Nepal-Tibet border in the Himalayas.

“I’m not driven by the desire to be close to death,” said Warner in an interview last December. “I’m driven by what [climbing] feeds my life.It’s one of those situations in life when you’re exposed to how tough you really are. It is so satisfying to find you can overcome these tremendousodds.”

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