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Coleman Everest 5.5 Challenge Begins

It may not be as cold, and they won’t need extra oxygen, but thousands of American schoolchildren are going on a month-long virtual climb of Mount Everest, starting April 9. They are part of the Coleman Everest 5.5 Challenge at, following in the footsteps of eighth grade Denver science teacher Mike Haugen, 30, an experienced mountaineer and field tester for Coleman Exponent gear.

Haugen is encouraging kids to discover Everest in their own backyard and remain physically active both at home and at school to fight what he calls “nature deficit,” one cause of obesity and many other problems kids face today. The specially designed Web site contains a list of 112 activities – from aerobics and jogging to hiking and camping – that kids can undertake as they earn their way from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, to the summit of the 29,035-foot mountain. Each of the 20 segments is completed when a child reports being active at least 60 minutes (or 10,000 steps) for that day.

So far, more than 300 teachers and 2,150 students in grade school and above have signed up to follow the expedition. The top schools that complete the trek will receive a framed Tibetan flag that Haugen took with him up the mountain and an autographed photo of Haugen.

In addition to tracking their virtual trek online, students can also see videos, photos and e-mail reports of Haugen’s actual Everest expedition. Haugen is expected to summit via the southern route by May 30, depending upon the weather. The virtual expedition on ends May 11 with the top schools announced on the site on May 16.

Haugen departed Denver for his expedition on March 17 following a rousing send-off at his Denver middle school, an event covered by Colorado radio and television stations and newspapers. He began posting expedition dispatches to his Coleman-sponsored blog immediately thereafter. In one dispatch he tells of wearing a facemask to protect against trail dust, and the need to boil water and use a hand sanitizer to stay healthy on the trek to Everest Base Camp. In another he explains that the landing strip in Lukla is so short, it’s built uphill to avoid hitting a nearby mountain.

Visitors to the site can see Haugen’s dispatches from the mountain and track his progress. They can also sign up to receive his dispatches by e-mail and submit questions for him to answer. Following the expedition, Haugen will conduct a nationwide tour of Coleman retailers and other locales to meet with schoolchildren who followed the expedition and to present a slide show of the experience.


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