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Roskelleys reach top of Everest

Wed., May 21, 2003, midnight

Son of Spokane County commissioner becomes youngest American to successfully scale mountain

Standing on top of the world’s tallest mountain early today, 20-year-old Jess Roskelley became the youngest American to make it to the summit of Mount Everest.

The University of Montana student and his father, Spokane County Commissioner John Roskelley, planted their feet atop the 29,035-foot mountain at about 7:30 a.m. local time today, or about 6:30 Tuesday night in Spokane, said Dan McConnell, a spokesman for the expedition.

For John Roskelley, 54, the summit was a sweet victory after failed attempts at Everest in 1983, 1984 and 1993.

The commissioner called home to his parents in Spokane on Tuesday night via satellite phone.

“He said they were up there but he could hardly talk, he was all out of breath,” said Fenton Roskelley, John’s father and Jess’ grandfather.

“He just said it was good to be with Jess,” Fenton Roskelley said. “It was a very short call. He just wanted us to know they made it.”

The father and son climbing team represents two generations of the “Generations on Everest” group that set out for the summit from Katmandu, Nepal, on March 26.

Dallas businessman and Utah ski resort owner Dick Bass was attempting to be the oldest person to climb the mountain at 73. He and Seattle attorney Jim Wickwire, 62, abandoned their attempts after experiencing physical difficulties.

The Roskelleys continued their push for the summit after Bass and Wickwire left the mountain and returned to the United States last week.

The original plan called for a May 8 summit attempt, but that plan was delayed by winds of 80 mph or stronger for nearly two weeks.

In a satellite phone call Monday night, the pair called home to say they had made it to high camp at 27,200 feet, and said they were in good physical health and would make the attempt for the summit in the next few days.

Forecasts called for a break in the weather today, and the Roskelleys wanted to get ahead of the stampede of climbers heading toward their goal on narrow routes.

The final leg was a climb of 1,835 vertical feet via the Northeast Ridge route from high camp.

It takes about six hours to get back down to the high camp, McConnell said.

At the home of Fenton and Violet Roskelley on Tuesday night, family members waited anxiously for the call. “We’ve been on pins and needles,” Fenton Roskelley said.

He and his wife were thrilled to hear the news, but noted the climb was not over.

“We know getting down can be very dangerous too,” he said. “It’s a very forbidding mountain.”

Fenton Roskelley, who writes a hunting and fishing column for The Spokesman-Review, added: “I wouldn’t want to be up there, unless there was a lake to fish.”

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