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Ohio Natives on the Climb of a Lifetime: Mount Everest

Two Columbus natives who took up the sport of climbing 15 years ago in high school are now on the ultimate expedition.Mike Haugen and Casey Grom have begun their ascent of Mount Everest.

Mike Haugen and Casey Grom met at Westerville North High School in the mid 1990s. Since then they've been mountaineering around the world. Both are professional guides on Mount Rainier. Grom says tackling Everest is simply the next step.

"Since Mike and I started climbing in Ohio we've slowly been taking bigger bites and over the years we've climbed and guided all over the world," Grom says. "And Everest is just the pinnacle of most climbers' careers."

Grom and Haugen arrived in Nepal in March, taking several weeks to acclimate themselves to the altitude. Their Everest ascent began at 5 a.m. local time Thursday. Thursday night the pair was settling down in their tent on the Khumbu Glacier according to Grom who spoke by satellite phone.

"We're currently at about 20,000 feet," Grom said. "We just finished our first leg today. We moved up from Base Camp through the lower Khumbu icefall which is one of the more hazardous sections of the climb up to Camp One."

23 parties are ascending Everest from the south this climbing season. Many are farther ahead and some have already reached the summit. Writing in his internet journal on Tuesday expedition leader Mike Haugen says their guide recommended waiting for better weather. Now that most of the other climbers are gone, Haugen says things are a bit more quiet.

"We just actually finished dinner and we're actually just hanging out in the tent listening to the snowfall," Haugen said. "It's peaceful. Camp One is actually quiet right now. A lot of people are up at Camp Two so we're just kind of hanging out by ourselves and enjoying it."

Haugen used his mountaineering expertise to persuade outdoor equipment manufacturer Coleman to help underwrite and supply the Everest expedition. Coleman has a special section on its website devoted to the trip says Casey Grom.

"Actually if you go to the Coleman website, ColemanEverest.com, you can do a virtual tour of the mountain and track us as we go.

Since the 1920s, several hundred people have died climbing Everest. Two climbers were killed on Wednesday at around 27-thousand feet according to a Nepalese official. Strong winds and heavy snow have hampered this year's climb. But Grom believes he and Haugen have a good shot at completing their planned ascent.

"I would say that our chances are pretty good. Mike and I have been doing this for 15 years now. The weather looks good and we're hearing good conditions about the upper mountain and since we're feeling good and we're healthy right now, we feel like our chances are pretty high."

To help stay healthy, Haugen and Grom will begin using supplemental oxygen at around 24,000 feet. The ascent from Base Camp to the summit, which is just above 29,000 feet, should take about five days.

"If all goes according to plan we're hoping to leave sometime Sunday night maybe around midnight and we'll climb into Monday morning, Grom says. "We hope to reach the summit somewhere slightly after daybreak."

Photographs and the day-by-day expedition journal can be seen at colemaneverest.com.