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'Climbing' Everest, one pullup at a time

Marines, others raise funds, morale with daylong challenge

Aug. 6, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Members of Regional Command Southwest Coalition-Joint Engineer staff section are set to travel the distance from sea level to the summit of Mount Everest — 29,035 feet — in pullups on Aug. 10.
Members of Regional Command Southwest Coalition-Joint Engineer staff section are set to travel the distance from sea level to the summit of Mount Everest — 29,035 feet — in pullups on Aug. 10. (Courtesy of CWO2 Aaron McKee)
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Most people who summit Mount Everest must endure a tough, snowy climb. But a group of hard-charging Marines deployed to Afghanistan thought they’d ascend the equivalent of the 29,035-foot distance just two feet at a time — through pullups.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron McKee, an engineer equipment officer, is deployed to Helmand province as part of a joint engineer staff that comprises Marines, sailors, an airman, civilian engineers and a member of the British Royal Engineers.

McKee said that in February, early in their deployment, pullups became a way to build camaraderie within the section and break up the day. Most of them did pullups anyway, he said, so they figured they could do them as a group. But it was a the British engineer who had the with a highly competitive streak who pushed the group toward a new challengeled themhe new idea, he added.

“During a nightly pullup workout, we were brainstorming and came up with the idea to ‘climb’ Mount Everest in pullups,” McKee said. “Following some rudimentary research and continued team discussion, we decided to build a 10- to 15-person team who would collectively execute 14,518 USMC standard pullups in a single 24-hour period.”

They estimated that each standard Marine Corps pullup would get them 24 inches closer to distance they would have to traverse to summit the mountain. And while it started as nothing more than a physical challenge for the section, he said they quickly realized they could turn it into a fundraising event.

So they launched a Facebook page titled “Mt. Everest Pull-Up Challenge” and decided to donate any proceeds they raise to the Wounded Warrior Project. Their base goal is $29,035 — or a dollar a foot. But, he said, they’re hoping to go beyond it.

“We all know Marines who have been killed or wounded during the last 12 years of combat operations,” McKee said. “We’ve survived unharmed for numerous tours, and this was a way for us to help our brothers and sisters in arms.”

The coalition group started a formal pullup training regimen March 1, and they decided to set Aug. 10 as the date for their “climb.” Their Facebook page states that their 15-man team — eight of whom are Marines — expects to maintain an hourly pace of roughly 75 pullups each. Collectively, they’re setting out to do more than 1,000 pullups an hour. They aim to complete the task in 24 hours, but think they could wrap up in as little as 14 hours.

If one of the team members drops out, McKee said others have been training to step in and do extra pullups that day. Failure is not an option, McKee said. They’ve done hundreds of pullups every week, Monday through Friday, for months. Each team member has achieved the milestone of doing as many as 500 pullups in a single day, McKee said.

“We want to be proud of what we accomplish and will hold each other accountable,” he said. “We give each other a hard time if one of the pullups looks a bit sloppy — strict form is a must.”

Overall, their hope is to use this motivating activity, which keeps their morale high in the war zone, to help others. Marines wanting to donate can do so by visiting their Facebook page.

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