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Vance L. Cook, 42, of Bountiful, crosses one of the crevasses in the ice falls area on the way up Everest.

Utah's adopted Sherpa guide, Apa Sherpa, achieved his record 18th trip to the summit of Mount Everest Thursday, but later that day, his climb was equaled by another Utahn, Vance L. Cook, 42, of Bountiful.

Cook's wife, Kim, said she's relieved that her husband made the strenuous trek safely to the 29,035-foot summit and down to base camp (elevation 17,500 feet).

"It's been very nerve-wracking," she said. "I trusted he would be safe and protected ... This is no surprise to his family that he made it to the top of the world. We are so proud of him."

Cook was one of three Americans and 10 total climbers, besides Apa, with the IMG Everest Expedition who reached the Everest summit Thursday via the south side in Nepal. There were also a Romanian, a Canadian and five Sherpa guides in that group of 10. There were at least four others in Apa's climbing group.

Cook is listed on one Web site (Everestnews.com) as being the first in his group of 10 climbers to summit, between 4:36 a.m. and 8:18 a.m. His Sherpa companion was Pemba Dorje from Nepal.

A good friend of Cook's, Chip Popivicui of North Carolina (originally from Transylvania), Jamling Bhote (his Sherpa) and Joe Yanuzzi from Pennsylvania were the other Americans to summit in the group.

The IMG Expedition also hoped to remove garbage from the summit and to highlight climate change in the Himalayas. (Because of time zones, Thursday on Everest was actually Wednesday in Utah.)

Cook had previously summited both Alaska's Mount McKinley (20,320 feet above sea level) and Mount Aconcagua (22,834) on the Chile-Argentina border.

"This is something he just took up," Kim Cook said, explaining it has only been the past seven years that her husband has had such an interest in the highest mountains.

Still, she said, he chose not to climb any other lower Himalayan mountains before Everest, to avoid being away from home too much.

Cook initially began climbing in 2000 when he took his employees to climb to Machu Picchu in Peru. It was such a great experience that he took his employees to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and to go on a safari in 2003.

"This is when he caught the climbing bug," his wife said.

She said he also chose to train in their "backyard." With the Cook home in the Bountiful foothills — near the Bountiful Temple — Cook spent the past eight months climbing straight up the Wasatch Mountains east of their residence.

"He has trained on many mountains, but the last year his training has been right out his front door and straight up the Bountiful ridge every morning," she said.

"He has packed a 65-pound pack filled with water bottles and his alpine skis. Sometimes, he packed his 7-year-old son, Logan, in his backpack and headed up the hill," she said.

On Saturdays, he would climb for up to seven hours on the same local mountain, near Sessions Canyon.

He met more than his share of rattlesnakes in the Wasatch Mountains and even a mountain lion during those training exercises, she said.

On his Everest expedition Cook also had to cope with thin air: There is less than one-third as much oxygen on the mountain's summit as is available at sea level.

"He's very athletic," Kim Cook said. " He is just your average soccer dad with an incredible drive to always reach higher."

She said her husband is very anxious to get home and will likely return to Utah during the first week of June.

Vance Cook is a businessman. He founded Headgate Studios, a video game developer, in 1992 in Bountiful. He then sold the company and it became EA Salt Lake.

The Cooks have two children besides Logan — Madison and Morgan.

• Thanks to favorable weather, 26 other climbers had reached the summit Wednesday. Many are in a rush to Everest, because there was a government ban on hiking there until May 10, spurred by plans to carry the Olympic torch to Everest. The torch reached the summit May 8.

Various Web sites report there are at least 30 expeditions currently in the process of climbing Everest.

May is usually the best time to climb Everest, before the monsoon season begins.

• At least one other Utahn, Bruce Parker, of Logan, also was hoping to climb Mount Everest this year. However, his approach was from the south (Chinese) side and the Chinese government closed the mountain in early May, canceling his trip. Parker is now planning on an Everest climb in 2009.


E-mail: lynn@desnews.com