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His Quest

A local college student talks about what it's like to be on top of the world.

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But the clock is ticking. Keeshan was 22 years, 175 days old. Lochner, who turned 22 May 12, will break Keeshan's record only if he completes the climb by Nov. 2.

Vinson's 16,066 feet aren't Lochner's only challenge. He and his climbing partner may have to hike and ski the last 600 miles from the coast to the base of the summit. The trip will cost $30,000. Lochner, who has been working at Goldman Sachs in New York this summer, is making the climbs to raise $1 million for prostate cancer research. Both his uncle and grandfather have had the disease.

Style recently caught up with Lochner to talk about the importance of sturdy boots and steadfast dreams.



Style: Though you've been an avid climber for years, you only embarked on the "seven summits" goal a little more than a year ago. How do you prepare physically for such a grueling test of strength and endurance?

Lochner: I began my quest in May of 2003, just following the spring semester of my junior year at Richmond. So from May 2003 to May 2004, I climbed six of the seven summits and climbed Aconcagua [in the Argentinian Andes] twice. As you might guess, I am a fan of doing things quickly and moving on.

In general, I am a fairly active individual so I don't take training overboard. I'll work out about three to four times a week in the gym and then run about three times a week, averaging about eight miles each time. With that said, I do not see myself as a talented athlete or mountaineer in any fashion. I believe anyone can do what I have done.



Of all the gear and necessities you must carry, what it the most indispensable?

That is definitely a difficult question. But if I had to say one item, it would be my boots. Without proper climbing boots, one cannot go anywhere.



You talk about your quest as being a reality as opposed to a dream. What qualities about yourself enable you to make this distinction and what do you consider to be your dreams?

I firmly believe that anything is obtainable if you really want what you set out to achieve. This quest has taught me a lot about myself — who I am and what I want in life. I thrive off of adventure, challenge and self-achievement, and I refuse to believe in impossibility. Also, I try to be myself and not what others think I should be or do. Where this came from, I am not sure, but I owe my success to my parents for the way they raised me.

My dream is that I will be able to lead an adventurous life while still earning a living, without being confined to an office building.



One would imagine you have an insatiable appetite for adventure. What will you do next to exhilarate you?

Yes, and that's what worries me. I have spoken to others about this. I think I have the bug for adventure. I am unsure where it will take me in life. But that's what I enjoy most about it, the possibilities are endless. After the Seven Summits, I have ambitions to trek to the South Pole.



Of the six summits you've reached, which has been the most meaningful or emotional and why? Which has been the most difficult? And which has been the most beautiful?

Each summit has been unique. As in life, there is always something to be learned. With that said, Mount McKinley and Everest stand out in my mind. Naturally, with McKinley being my first summit, I had self-doubt as to whether I could climb. When I reached the summit, it released, and I knew that I had to complete the remaining six.

To me, McKinley is also the most beautiful. The mountains in the Alaskan range are snowcapped, which makes for an unbelievable view. Unfortunately, my summit day on Everest was cloudy so I didn't see much. All my summits have been emotional. I have cried out of joy at each. It's hard to say why, but if you go through all the pain and suffering leading up to the summit, you'll know.



Mountain climbing is a fairly individualized sport. Do you get lonely? What do you think about during your ascent?

Yes, it can be very lonely. Especially when you are away from your family and friends for weeks and months. However, climbing is also very much team-oriented, where your life is entrusted with your climbing partner. I only climb with one person, Dan Meggitt, and we are very similar in many ways. We tend to keep each other company. During the ascent, when I am not focused on the climb, I think about life. I think about who I am and what I want out of life. It gives me time to reflect on the past and ponder the future.



Describe what it feels like when you're on top.

It's an indescribable feeling. It's kind of like winning the lotto but then thinking about how much you have to pay in taxes. Climbing is not about the summit. Reaching it is an added bonus that is extremely rewarding. At the same time, while being thrilled you're at the top, you're concerned about what lies ahead: the descent. S



For more information on Lochner's climb, or how to contribute to his cause, go online: www.oath7.com.



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