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7 continents, 7 summits

After airmen climb Australian peak, only Everest remains

Jan. 20, 2011 - 02:36PM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2011 - 02:36PM  |  
Air Force Capts. Robert Marshall and Graydon Muller reached the top of Antarctica's Mount Vinson as part of the U.S. Air Force's 7 Summits Challenge.
Air Force Capts. Robert Marshall and Graydon Muller reached the top of Antarctica's Mount Vinson as part of the U.S. Air Force's 7 Summits Challenge. (Air Force)
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Mount Kosciuszko should be a snap for Air Force Capts. Robert Marshall and Graydon Muller.

After all, Australia's tallest peak stands at only 7,310 feet — roughly 9,000 feet below the peaks they've climbed so far in their quest to plant the Air Force flag atop each continent's highest mountain.

And the weather Down Under should be a tad warmer than Antarctica, where the special operations airmen made a pre-Christmas climb of 16,070-foot Mount Vinson. That was the fifth peak conquered by the U.S. Air Force 7 Summits Challenge, a group made up mostly of airmen but not affiliated with the service.

The group formed in 2005 to plant the Air Force flag on all seven peaks. It also raises money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which provides scholarships and education counseling to children of fallen special operations personnel.

Besides Mount Vinson, the Air Force flag has been planted on Europe's Mount Elbrus, (18,510 feet); Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa (19,340 feet); Mount Aconcagua, South America (22,830 feet); and Mount McKinley, North America (20,320 feet).

Marshall, with the 8th Special Operations Squadron, and Muller, with the 6th Special Operations Squadron, took 12 days to climb Mount Vinson. They made the trek with a commercial climbing company.

They had expected the temperature on the mountain to be more brutal — possibly minus-50 degrees — than what they found, which was an almost balmy minus-15 at the summit.

"Graydon and I are so used to traveling around the world, doing weird climbs on missions and [temporary duty]," Marshall said.

The officers aren't sure when they'll take off from their base, Hurlburt Field, Fla., for the Outback. No date has been set for the Australian adventure.

As for the tallest peak of them all, Asia's 29,030-foot Mount Everest, Marshall and Muller said they are determined to conquer that one in May 2012.

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