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Conquerer of ‘Three Poles’ Says First Climb Was Everest

May 11, 1994

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ The first person to ski to both poles and scale the world’s highest mountain said Wednesday from Mount Everest that he had never before tried serious climbing.

Two days after reaching the summit of the 29,028-foot peak, Erling Kagge said via a radiotelephone from a base camp nearly 4 miles up Mount Everest that he had no climbing experience when he set off from Katmandu, Nepal, in March.

But the 31-year-old Norwegian said his experience in the polar wastes helped. He spent weeks getting used to extreme altitude, where the oxygen is so thin it can incapacitate climbers.

″The trips are completely different,″ he told The Associated Press. ″The thing that is the same is that you have to adapt to nature. You can’t fight it.″

″I am used to the cold. I am used to the wind. I am used to things being unpleasant. That helped,″ he added.

Kagge said he was stunned by what he saw climbing Everest with the 31- member team.

″This was much more powerful scenery. It was dangerous and beautiful,″ he said from the base camp 18,800 feet up the mountain.

In 1990, Kagge and Borge Ousland became the first team ever to ski to the North Pole without outside help. Last year, Kagge set another record - the first to ski alone and unaided to the South Pole. Many people have been to the poles, but always with such outside help as dog sleds and supply deliveries.

Everest, conquered in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, is so desolate that it is sometimes called ″The Third Pole.″

″I thought it would be very exciting to complete this trilogy as the first person in history,″ said Kagge, a lawyer who was part of an 11-member team that reached the summit.

He began the five-day climb to the summit May 5.

Kagge, coughing and sounding out of breath even at the base camp, said he slept at progressively higher camps - there were four between the base camp and the summit - and then climbed down to catch his breath.

Kagge said the whole trip ″was like a dance on roses″ until he reached 28,000 feet.

″At that point, I was completely weak and exhausted,″ he said.

Kagge and the other team members made the final ascent in darkness, lighted only by miners’ lamps on their helmets. They climbed at night because the snow was more stable and safer.

″About 30 meters (yards) from the summit, I cried a little,″ he said.

Upon staggering atop the summit, Kagge and the others spent about 90 minutes there and then began the dangerous descent.

Kagge said he planned to leave Everest on Thursday and return to his Oslo home May 18.

He listed three items on his immediate agenda: ″Kiss my girlfriend. Write a book called something like ‘Pole to Pole and Beyond’ ... and get a job.″

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