The state of Idaho's flag could be placed atop the world's highest peak this summer by three residents from the Pocatello area.
Kellie Rhoads, her husband, Jeff, and Tom Whittaker are taking part in the 1989 American Everest Expedition. They will leave for Nepal in mid-March with 11 other members of the team, with the intention of attacking the 29,028-foot peak in early May.The three gave Gov. Cecil Andrus an official expedition sweatshirt Thursday covered with colorful yaks. In turn, they received Centennial "Everest" license plates and an Idaho flag to be planted on the mountain in the Himalayas.
While all three have extensive climbing experience, Kellie Rhoads is the only Idaho member with experience on Everest. Last January, she was a member of an American expedition that came within 2,000 feet of the summit.
"The high altitude is very physically debilitating," she said. "Your body does not recover. It's like doing a marathon every day."
In preparation, Mrs. Rhoads said she and Whittaker have been lifting weights and Jeff Rhoads has been downhill skiing.
More than anything, reaching the highest point on Earth takes extraordinary mental conditioning.
"It takes quite a few dead brain cells," Whittaker said. "No brain, no pain."
Whittaker jokes about the expedition and his prosthetic foot. But he is gathering a following of serious fans.
Nine years ago, doctors said the native Welshman, as he lay in a coma after a car accident near Pocatello, might not live and if he did, would not walk again.
Although he lost part of a leg, Whittaker did not give up climbing and has established a nationally acclaimed wilderness program for handicapped students at Idaho State University.
If he makes it to the top, he will be the first handicapped person to master one of the world's foremost challenges.
Jeff Rhoads said one of the goals of the expedition is to remove trash from the mountain's base camp.
"We plan on leaving it cleaner than we found it," he said.
The base camp has been called a garbage dump from years of refuse left by expeditions.
Recently, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to reach the summit in 1953, called for a moratorium on expeditions because of the waste problem.