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Two American 17-year-olds summit Everest, a third turns back

May 21, 2009 |  1:20 pm


Two out of three 17-year-olds is not bad for Mt. Everest. In fact, it's an outstanding ratio.

Earlier this week, Johnny Collinson of Snowbird, Utah, made it to the top of the world's tallest peak, becoming the first Westerner to do so. A day later, Johnny Strange of Malibu reached the summit. Their view from 29,035 feet: absolutely stunning.

More recently, though, Erica Dohring of Paradise Valley, Arizona, abandoned her quest during what was to be the summit push.

This dispatch from Rainier Mountaineering team member Dave Hahn: "... Subtly at first, and then a bit more obviously as we came into our first rest break, Erica’s pace began to falter and things didn’t seem quite so easy any longer. This was perplexing at first, since conditions were perfect, the terrain was relatively easy and Erica’s health was excellent.

"As planned at this point of the climb, where the [Khumbu] Icefall steepens and the avalanche hazard to a group increases, I asked Seth, Melissa and Kent, along with Ang Kaji, to go slowly ahead. We’d stay in contact by radio. Erica and I finished our rest and moved upward, but by then it had become clear that Erica was losing confidence in her ability to climb the mountain.

Jonnhy c

"Such moods come and go for climbers and I hoped this one would go soon. We determined to climb on up through the “Popcorn” section of the glacier and to reevaluate our situation at the Icefall’s midpoint. Through the Corn, I was happy to see that Erica’s strength and skills were intact… but clearly she had the weight of the world on her shoulders with some heavy decision-making going on. Her million dark thoughts were spawning a hundred or so in my own less nimble mind.

"I stifled the urge to `argue' Erica into an Everest summit attempt as we walked. I wouldn’t do such a thing for an adult… I certainly couldn’t begin anything of the sort for a seventeen-year-old. Everest is too dangerous a game… I’ve seen too many people die here."

Hahn concluded that the mountain had simply become too big for Dohring, and that she should be proud for trying rather than ashamed for turning back. She has vowed to return, though, and someday, most likely, she too will enjoy that splendid view.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: Top photo of Mt. Everest courtesy of Rainier Mountaineering. Bottom photo shows Dawes Eddy, 66, of Spokane, Wash., and Johnny Collinson, 17, of Snowbird, Utah, after both successfully reached the top of Everest. Photo courtesy of Everestnews.com