March 20, 2015
If Cadet Harold Earls of the U.S. Military Academy is successful in raising $260,000 for the 5-man ascent, his team will begin the climb in April of 2016.
Earls, a senior infielder with the Army baseball team who has never climbed any mountain, came up with the idea five months ago.
He saw this as a golden opportunity to have a spotlight directed at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which has impacted the lives of many U.S. soldiers.
PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
This climb is hardly for the novice climber which is precisely why Earls has approached this climb with precision. Over the years, more than 200 people have died trying to climb Mount Everest. Many deaths have taken place due to avalanches, injury from ice collapse or falls, exposure and health problems related to the high altitude.
A 5-man team comprised entirely of active and veteran Army soldiers has never had the opportunity to summit the mountain until now.
“About five months ago, I was sitting in my room and came up with the idea of doing this to help soldiers who suffer from PTSD,” said Earls.
“I contacted Army Public Affairs, and they told me that no active Army soldier has ever made the ascent to the top of Mount Everest. Then I tried to network the best I could to see if my idea could gain momentum. The officers here (U.S. Military Academy) supported me and got behind me. One contact led to another.
“Now we have an incredible team of 5 climbers lined up who are all active duty or veteran Army soldiers from all different parts of the Army.
“In our training, we have already become very close. I am extremely blessed that this is going forward. I would never have thought five months ago that this would happen.”
Earls said that he has never climbed a mountain in his life.
“I backpacked with my dad growing up. But that is hardly trying to climb the tallest mountain in the world.
“This isn’t a highly technical climb. So you don’t need a great deal of climbing technical skills. It is more of a physical, mental endurance ascent. I will be climbing Mount Rainier this fall (about 54 miles southeast of Seattle at a summit elevation of 14,411 feet, half the height of Mount Everest).
“Then we are looking to do another climb next December. While I don’t have any climbing experience, the rest of our team is pretty qualified for this endeavor.”
Earls said that at first, he received negative feedback from virtually everyone he contacted about pursuing such a climb.
“So many people at first told me that it was a great idea. But there was no way it would happen. People told me there was no way we could raise enough money for the climb, there was no way we could get it approved by the Army. Others would tell me that I was a Cadet, and I needed to focus on being a Cadet instead of toying around with this idea. So I used negative feedback as fuel and motivation to continue on. I have never been afraid of failure which you experience a lot as a baseball player.
“But before I knew it, people were coming on board with this idea. We haven’t raised all the funds we need yet. But we have gotten through a lot of legal loopholes and steps necessary to make this happen.
“I had an instructor here (Captain Benji Marquez) who was instrumental in providing encouragement to me. I shared the idea with him first. And he told me that I may fail, but I would kick myself the rest of my life if I didn’t try to make it happen. I took his advice to heart. Since that time, I have worked every day on this project to make this dream become a reality.”
Because of the logistical and bureaucratic tape involved in such a climb, this will not be a military backed operation, according to Earls. It is strictly private as companies are being sought to make the ascent possible.
“I initially tried to make it an official Army-backed climb. Unfortunately, there are so many bureaucratic mountains to climb that it makes it virtually impossible to complete this goal through that route.
“So this is an unofficial Army endeavor. I created a non-profit corporation called U.S. Expedition & Explorations — USX. We have a web site that people can go in www.usx.vet
“That is who is officially putting on this expedition. We are looking at partnering with several other non-profit organizations. In total, we are looking to raise $200,000-$300,000. The $200,000 is strictly for the expedition cost.
“It wouldn’t be right just to raise money for a climb. My hope is that we can raise $100,000 more to help soldiers with PTSD.”
Earls said that this large amount of money doesn’t have to be raised all at once since items must be purchased in incremental order.
“The Nepal permits are $10,000 per person. We are looking to purchase those in April or May. And that is $50,000 right there. We would like to have all of our funds raised by next fall. That would be perfect. Then we could spend a great deal of time raising awareness about PTSD.”
Earls said that he is from Cumming, Ga. and hates cold weather.
“Being from Georgia, I hate the cold and don’t like running hills here. But that is probably why I was so drawn to climb Everest because of this incredible challenge.”
Since Earls is a senior this year at the U.S. Military Academy, he will embark on his military career shortly after graduation. And his life will be exceedingly hectic through next spring.
“I have an extremely busy year coming up. I get married June 11 of this year to Rachel. Then I go to Army Infantry School for five months. We are in the field training and learning officer tactics. The day that ends, I will be leaving April 1, 2016 to climb Mount Everest. That is a 60-day endeavor.
“Then I will come back about June 1, 2016 and have three weeks to recover. And then in the beginning of July, I will go to Ranger School which is 60 days of strenuous training in the woods. So the upcoming year for me will be quite the physical challenge. But I’m looking forward to all of it.”
To read more about the planned ascent to Mount Everest, purchase the March 20, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.