Expedition to Watch: Jake Norton’s Challenge 21

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Climber Jake Norton began tackling mountains at the age of 12 with an ascent of Mount Rainer. Since then, he has bagged that peak 98 times, climbed on six continents, and traveled to Everest six times. He has summited Everest three times. He helped discover Mallory's remains on Everest in 1999 and has played a key role in exploring the history of the mountain. He was the first person to discover all of the pre-World War II camps on the mountain. During his explorations, he's shared his discoveries with a healthy sense of humor. Last month, he blogged about his decision to eat a couple of 68-year-old biscuits that he found on Mount Everest, not knowing the economic value of such gastronomic artifacts. Now he wants to do something bigger. He's planned a seven-continent, multi-year climbing project in order to raise awareness about the world's clean water crisis.

Who: Jake Norton, Wende Valentine, Danielle Elkin, Kael Robinson, and more

What: Challenge 21. Norton and his team plan to climb the three highest summits on each of the seven continents while raising $2.1 million for Water for People and informing 2.1 million people about the water and sanitation crisis.

When: The project started in August 2011 and will last three to five years.

“I first heard the Zen koan-like words “higher than Everest“—which were first uttered by Willi Unsoeld back in 1963—when I was a kid. They've stuck with me for decades. As much as I love climbing, I've always wanted it to mean more to me, to go beyond simply my personal satisfaction and accomplishment. I've longed my entire life to figure out how to take my skills and passions and leverage them to create positive change in our world. Having two children has only made me feel this more intensely: if I'm going to be traveling, climbing, and risking, I better have a damn good reason for doing so. My wife, Wende, shares these sentiments, and has devoted her life and career to international development.

Through Wende and her work with Water for People, I came to know and understand the magnitude of the global water and sanitation crisis. It's immense, pressing, and a truly global issue that handicaps development worldwide. Without safe water and sanitation no development is possible. Kids die of diarrhea, families spend hours each day hauling water instead of working or studying, villages and provinces and entire nations are stunted by the constant need for life's fundamental needwater. Once I understood this, and the remarkable, responsible, sustainable, and accountable work done by Water For People, “higher than Everest” finally became clear for me: I'd use my skills as a climber and photographer and storyteller to leverage the drama of climbing to raise funds and awareness for the water and sanitation crisis in general, and Water For People specifically. We knew the challenge had to be big—big enough to mirror the gravity of the water/sanitation crisis and big enough to draw in millions of people…and millions of dollars.  Hence, the Triple Seven Summits, and Challenge21.”
–Jake Norton

Follow:, Challenge 21 on Facebook, @Climbing4Water on Twitter

Main Sponsor: First Ascent by Eddie Bauer

Via: Kim Havell

–Joe Spring

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