Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pinoy Nearing Everest Summit

Oracion at Everest summit ridge, hours away from peak

17 May 2006 (as of 1:20pm TODAY)

Filipino mountaineer Heracleo "Leo" Oracion, lead climber of the First Philippine Mount Everest Expedition (FPMEE) has reached the mountain's summit ridge and is expected to raise the Philippine flag atop the highest peak in the world before noon Wednesday, ABS-CBN News learned.

"In two hours at most, we can make the announcement after Leo calls us by radio, " FPMEE leader Arturo Valdez told a DZMM interview conducted past 6 a.m. in Nepal (9 a.m. in Manila) Wednesday.

Valdez, the rest of the team, and ABS-CBN News correspondents Abner Mercado and Vince Rodriguez are stationed at Everest Base Camp.

Valdez said that with the weather near the summit, each step Oracion makes would take a minute to complete.

"The wind there is so thin. The wind in the area has only one-third oxygen [composition]," he said, adding that the temperature in the summit ridge is -30 degrees Celsius.

However, he said that Oracion remains focused. "In less than two hours, the Philippine flag will be..on top of the highest mountain."

The 32-year-old Oracion packed his bags and gear and left Camp 4 past 9 p.m. Tuesday. He went with only one Sherpa guide.

Camp 4 is the last stopover before the summit of the earth's highest peak. Everest's peak is at 8, 848 meters above sea level.

A second member of the expedition, Erwin "Pastor" Emata, was also headed for Camp 4 from Camp 3. He will try to scale the summit Thursday.

The team decided to climb the summit one at a time, a strategy to ensure that at least one of them will reach the highest part of the mountain.

Both Oracion and Emata trained for three years before beginning their ascent on Everest.

The Philippine expedition is supported by Asia Brewery's Summit Water, Philippine Airlines, Globe Roaming Services, Coleman, ABS-CBN, Stratworks, MedCentral, Mozcom, National Sports Grill, Fitness First, PowerUp, the Rudy Project, Kodak and the Philippine Accident Manager's Insurance.

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