It’s a long way from Sioux County to Nepal — both in horizontal and vertical terms.
Last weekend, Marshall Klitzke, a 2001 graduate of Lemmon, S.D., High School, made it from the dusty prairies to the top of the world — Mount Everest.
Klitzke is a captain in the United States Air Force, a KC-135 pilot. His father, Del Klitzke, said Marshall Klitzke received an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs following high school and has been hooked on climbing.
Marshall Klitzke is a member of the Air Force’s 7 Summits Challenge Team, an unofficial team of airmen climbing the great peaks in the world to spread patriotism and raise money for military charities.
When the team reached the summit of Mount Everest, it completed the team’s quest to scale all seven over the past seven years.
Other mountains in the challenge were Mount Elbrus in Russia; Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania; Mount Aconcagua in Argentina; Mount McKinley in Alaska; Mount Vinson in Antarctica; and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia.
Team members mark their accomplishment with memorial push-ups on each summit, in honor of their fallen friends.
Del Klitzke said his son called him on a satellite phone Tuesday morning from base camp. He said his son was one of six team members who began the assault on Everest about six weeks ago, but two had to turn back because of medical issues related to altitude.
Located on the border of Nepal and Tibet in the Himalaya range, it’s the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet. The first ascent was in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Team members don’t climb all of the summits, but do so as their work schedule and leave allow, Del Klitzke said.
“This was the first time he got to go with this team,” he said, and it turned out to be the final piece in the challenge.
Klitzke said he won’t have the chance to visit with his son again until sometime next week when the team returns to the U.S.
He said the team was planning to spend a couple days at base camp while they readjusted to the altitude.
Klitzke said he was able to follow his son’s progress on the Air Force’s web page and Facebook page, but it will be nice to have him back in the country.
“It’s been a very exciting time for him, and for us too,” he said.