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Twenty-six years after he unsuccessfully attempted to climb Mount Everest as a graduate student at the University of Wyoming, Mark Jenkins has reached the summit of the world's highest mountain.
Jenkins, a Laramie resident who works as a field staff writer for National Geographic, reached the 29,035-foot summit of Everest at around 6:15 p.m. MDT Thursday, says his wife, Sue Ibarra. She spoke to him by satellite phone about 9:15 p.m. Thursday, after he had returned to Camp 4 at an elevation of 26,000 feet.
"He's exhausted, but doing fine," Ibarra says. "He sounded good, but I'm sure he's probably relieved and ready to be down."
Jenkins, also a writer-in-residence for the UW master's degree program in creative writing, has been part of a National Geographic team marking the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Everest. He left Laramie in late March and had spent several weeks acclimatizing to the extremely high elevations of the Himalayas. He has been chronicling the expedition with blog entries at www.natgeo.com/oneverest.
In 1986, Jenkins was part of an expedition that attempted a new route on Everest's North Face, but weather prevented the group from reaching the summit. At the time, he was pursuing a master's degree in geography at UW, and he collected snow samples at an elevation higher than anyone had before, as part of his research into acid snow. Since then, he has traveled the world as an adventurer and writer, including ascents of some of the globe's other tallest peaks; dangerous trips to some of the world's last remote regions; and travel by foot or bicycle across continents.
Ibarra says reaching the summit of Everest via its southeast ridge "is definitely up there" in her 53-year-old husband's list of accomplishments.
"It's somewhat been a monkey on his back," she says. "I'm sure he's happy to tick it off the list."
She expects him to return to Laramie as early as next week.
Jenkins has since been published in dozens of national and international publications, and he's the author of four award-winning books. Before going to work for National Geographic, he was a columnist for Outside magazine for eight years and worked as a freelance journalist.