Climbing to new heights

Most people only ever dream of climbing Mount Everest, but for Andy Anderson, assistant professor of management here at UNI, that dream became a reality last April.

Anderson, along with his cousin, John Anderson, departed for Mount Everest on April 7, 2017. This mountain - the highest in the world - stands at a staggering 29,029 feet tall. John decided to climb the Northeast Ridge route which starts at ~17,000 feet.

Put simply, attempting to summit Everest is no easy task.

“Climbing Everest took a long time to prepare for,” said Anderson. “I was technically and physically ready for the climb two years ago, but many of my friends were climbing [from the south side of Everest] this year. I decided to make this year the year I attempted the climb, as well.”

Andy Anderson and companion atop Mount Everest
Andy Anderson holding UNI flag atop Mount Everest

Once he embarked on the climb, Anderson still had to endure both physical and mental challenges throughout the entire journey. You are submitting your body to a hostile environment for a long period of time and that creates obstacles for even the toughest of climbers.

“Your body is just rebelling at every turn,” he said. “Every time you go up to a higher elevation, your body reacts very poorly, generally; you get headaches, nausea, you have to force food and water down. You had to take five breaths for every step because of the lack of oxygen.”

Anderson talked about longing for “creature comforts,” like the feel of his own bed, but a grim discovery along his path to the top of Mount Everest offered a sobering reminder of the life-or-death stakes of the climb.

“I think the biggest challenge mentally was seeing a dead body going from Camp 2 to Camp 3,” he said. “Somebody who is doing the exact same thing as you, in a very similar way, died because it was too extreme of an environment. You are wondering, ‘Why would I be successful if this person wasn’t?’, and you don’t know the answer to that until the end of the journey.

“You have to be mentally strong to get through those moments.”

His entire trip lasted 52 days, and despite the physical and mental toll, he accomplished his goal – and in the process became one of the first Iowans to scale the Northeast Ridge.

“This climb helped show me through persistence and determination even the seemingly most far-reaching goals are attainable,” said Anderson.

For many people, achieving their goals can feel like climbing a mountain, even if they’re not actually scaling Mount Everest. And while fear can lead to apprehension, it’s not the only obstacle.

“I don't think fear is what holds most people back from setting big goals. I think it is the ability to follow through on those dreams which sometimes doesn't happen,” he said. “The advice I would give to people with big goals is to create a tangible path to their goal and follow it with steadfast devotion. You have to be gritty.”

Although his adventure up Mount Everest pushed both his body and mind to their limits, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he will remember for the rest of his life.

Anderson and his cousin also delivered a presentation on their climb to UNI students, faculty and staff on Friday, Aug. 25, and that can be viewed here.