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Ambitious UO student eyes K2 summit.

Byline: Mike Stahlberg The Register-Guard

Bob Pool dreams of reaching high places at a young age.

Pool, a University of Oregon senior who turned 23 last month, has his sights set on becoming the youngest person ever to reach the summit of K2, the world's second-highest peak, in northern Pakistan.

Pool last fall was selected to be part of a climbing expedition being assembled by Alan Arnette of Denver and led by Dave Hancock of Australia.

K2 has an altitude of 28,251 feet that ranks second behind Mount Everest at 29,035 feet.

Team members plan to fly to Pakistan in June, warm up with a climb of Broad Peak (26,555 feet), then trek to K2 base camp and make an attempt at the summit via the Abruzzi Ridge in July.

By that time, Pool will be 23 years, 6 months old. The youngest person to summit K2 previously is a Japanese climber who was almost 24 years old at the time.

Pool's first exposure to climbing came at age 19, in a Climbing 101 class at Oregon, where he was also a member of the wrestling team.

"My love for climbing was almost immediate," Pool said. "The following fall I took the term off school to travel the country and climb every day."

Pool, a member of Crater High School's three-time state champion wrestling team, wrestled as a walk-on at Oregon for two seasons. He was also starting to make a splash as a competitive kayaker (winning the Oregon Freestyle Championships at Nugget in 2000 and 2001) before climbing became a passion that consumed all of his time and energy.

"I used to think wrestling was the hardest thing to do, but climbing tops it," Pool said. "The thing I like about climbing, it's such a mental game, pushing yourself far beyond what you think you can do.

"It's really not the thrill you get on the mountain, its the thrill you get when you get back home and look back at what you did."

Pool hasn't wasted any time accomplishing things in the world of climbing.

Pool found himself on Kahiltna Glacier on the slopes of Mount McKinley (Denali) "only a year and a half after I first climbed a rock." Six days later, he summited via the West Buttress route.

That first trip to McKinley, in 2004, "opened my eyes to climbing big mountains," said Pool, who previously had focused on technical rock climbing.

Last year, Pool returned to Alaska to climb Denali for the second time in as many years, this time via the West Ribb route. On the same trip, he made a "fast and light ascent" of the west ridge of Alaska's Mount Hunter.

It was on Denali last year that Pool met Arnette, who later invited him to apply for the K2 expedition he was putting together.

"I sent my resume in and somehow they chose me," Pool said.

According to Arnette's Internet site, 25 people have signed up for what will be largest commercial expedition ever to climb K2. The team includes an expedition doctor, one trekker and several climbers who will attempt Broad Peak only. The others will try to climb both mountains.

But actually making it to base camp on K2 is not as simple as being accepted as part of the expedition.

Pool's share of the expenses for gear, food, airfare, porters and various permits is about $12,750 - not an easy sum to accumulate for a young man who works as a sales clerk in the climbing department of McKenzie Outfitters.

"I've sold my truck and kayaks and am still about $8,000 short," Pool said.

So he's sent out letters soliciting sponsorships to several companies, hoping to get financial backing in exchange for wearing company logos on his high-altitude suit, or for doing product testing and reviews. He's even offered to give climbing lessons to donors, or climb a Cascade peak with them.

Meanwhile, the Arnette-Hancock expedition also includes a humanitarian component. The climbers plan to help with the ongoing relief efforts for Pakistanis hit by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in October.

"Everyone on the team donated $300 toward it, and a lot of us have donated tents - almost 100 tents among the team," Pool said.

K2 is considered by many mountaineers to be the most difficult peak in the world to climb, and Pool's task will be even more challenging because he is one of a handful of climbers on the expedition who plan to climb without the use of supplemental oxygen.

Only about 200 people have ever made it to the summit of K2, Pool said, and only about 20 of those did so without the aid of bottled oxygen.

To train for the attempt, Pool works out at a health club and at a rock climbing gym during the week, then "I get up and climb (on Mount Hood or some other Cascade peak) every weekend, even though the weather's been horrible."

Pool said a regimen of work, training and school has him "stressed out."

"But it'll be worth it, going over there."

Bob Pool can be reached at (541) 301-4542 or at rpool1@hotmail.com.

CAPTION(S):

Bob Pool, 23, sharpens his climbing skills on a rock face near Leavenworth, Wash. Pool, a former walk-on wrestler at Oregon, is trying to raise funds to climb the world's second-highest peak this summer.
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Title Annotation:Recreation; Bob Pool would be the youngest to reach the top if he makes it in July
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 7, 2006
Words:901
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