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To the Roof of the World

Businessman and mountaineer Armand Musey ventured up Mount Everest to raise funds for the American Red Cross but found his route hampered by politics.

Learn more about Armand Musey's trek up Mount Everest. Listen to interviews recorded before and after he summitted the world's highest peak.

When J. Armand Musey (KSM95) decided to climb Mount Everest, he expected raging winds, monsoons and a lack of air to challenge him in his quest to reach the world's highest mountain peak. Instead, it was a set of unlikely hindrances that made life difficult for the 41-year-old climber: the Chinese and Nepalese governments.

Musey, a securities analyst in the telecommunications and satellite industries, attempted the climb during one of the most politicized epochs in the mountain's recent history. The world's eyes were on Mount Everest in early May as a Chinese mountaineering team carried the Olympic torch to the top for the first time ever.

Fearing protests from foreigners over its recent crackdown on Tibetan dissidents, the Chinese government closed off the north-side Tibetan summit route to all climbing groups this year. This forced climbers to take the south route in Nepal that Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay took in 1953.

The Chinese government then pressured Nepal to temporarily close the south side of Everest while the Chinese torch team made its ascent. (Climbers speculated that an approximately $190 million soft loan from the Chinese helped ensure that Nepal would prevent anti-Chinese protests on Everest.)

While the Chinese climbers made their final ascent in early May, Nepalese restrictions temporarily prevented other climbers from going higher than Camp 2 at 21,500 feet. The Nepalese even had an armed sniper prepared to shoot anyone who tried to defy the climbing ban, says Musey. The delay almost cost climbers appropriate acclimatization training and even a chance to summit at all.

Musey and a team of eight climbers, three guides and about 30 Sherpas dealt with Nepalese soldiers during much of their climb. Some teams were subject to security searches at base camp, and even the climbers' e-mails and satellite phone calls were often monitored by the Nepalese. One team was almost kicked off the mountain for complaining on a blog about the Nepalese presence, says Musey.

"There were all kinds of restrictions — such as no radios on the mountain — that would make safe climbing virtually impossible," says Musey.

The Chinese team carrying the Olympic torch reached the top of Mount Everest on May 8. Fifteen days later, as the sun went down on May 23, Musey and 100 others set out on the final 10-hour climb to the "very treacherous" summit from Camp 4.

Musey made the climb to 29,028 feet in darkness and bitter 40-below-zero cold.

"It's a pretty miserable experience," he says. "It would have been very easy to plunge 2,000 feet off the side of the mountain."

However, when he reached the summit the next morning, the view alone was worth the risky ascent.

"It was mystical," says Musey.

For how massive Everest is, the snow-covered summit area is no larger than a decent-sized hotel room. And when a group of climbers reaches the peak, it's very crowded, says Musey. Twenty climbers crammed onto the summit the morning Musey successfully ascended. After snapping some pictures and spending only 30 minutes at the top of the world, he began his descent.

Before Mount Everest, Musey had climbed six of the world's "seven summits," the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. By mastering Everest, Musey added the missing summit to his climbing résumé — and he had frostbite on six of his toes to show for it.

Like a growing number of climbers, Musey wanted to make Mount Everest more than just an important personal achievement. Musey used his climb to raise money for the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which helps victims of natural disasters around the world. So far his six-week expedition has raised $50,000.

"The needs of the Red Cross, particularly now with the major disasters in Asia [the cyclone in Myanmar and earthquake in China in May], are significant, so we definitely would like to raise a lot more," he says.

Musey expects contributions to trickle in now that he's back home in New York City.

But don't expect Musey to remain adventureless for too long. He hopes to complete several more climbs and expeditions, such as skiing to the North Pole.

— Marcelino Benito (J10)

Learn more about Armand Musey's trek to the top of the world. Listen to interviews recorded before and after he summitted Mount Everest.

Do you know alumni who are doing interesting things with their lives? Tell us about them. Send us their stories at

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Armand Musey
Armand Musey stands beside a handwritten sign posted by the Nepalese military on Mount Everest that warns climbers not to ascend beyond this point until after May 10, allowing the Chinese Olympic torchbearers unchallenged access to the summit.