Jermaine Middleton, 31, of Austell (holding sign) reached the top of Mount Aconcagua on Feb. 28. The mountain in Argentina is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere and is the second highest of the Seven Summits. This spring, Middleton hopes to become the first American-born black man to scale Mount Everest. CONTRIBUTED BY JERMAINE MIDDLETON

Austell man climbs Mount Aconcagua before tackling Everest

There are many ways one might describe climbing the highest mountain peak in the Western Hemisphere. “Uneventful” was one word of choice for Jermaine Middleton.

The Austell resident summited Mount Aconcagua in Argentina on Feb. 28. It was his latest climb in an effort to become the first U.S.-born black man to climb Mount Everest.

“It was challenging, but things worked out really well,” said Middleton, 31, who climbed Aconcagua as preparation to climb Everest this spring. At 22,841 feet, Aconcagua is the second highest of the Seven Summits — the term used to describe the highest peaks on each continent — behind only Mount Everest in Asia.

Jermaine Middleton talks about his journey to climb Mount Everest at the Cochran Shoals Unit along the Chattahoochee River in Marietta. Middleton, a South Cobb High School graduate, hopes to be the first American born, African-American man to climb Mount Everest, the worlds highest mountain above sea level. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Though his initial goal was to tackle Everest in April, Middleton is still raising money for the $65,000 climb in addition to money for three local charities. Last summer, he launched Summit 413, which is both a reference to the Bible verse Philippians 4:13, which has served as a mantra through his many adventures, and a journal of his quest to climb Everest. The charities include Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Atlanta Dream Center, which helps reach and restore men, women and children through their ministries; and Four Corners Group, which takes a Gospel-centered approach to youth mentoring.

So far, he has raised $43,290 of his $290,029 goal (a symbolic number that is almost 10 times the height of Mount Everest) on Go Fund Me from 58 donors over the past eight months. Of that amount, $100,000 would cover expenses for prerequisite climbs and Everest while anything above that goes to charity. He needs at least $40,000 more than he has raised to make the Everest climb in April, he said.

His contingency plan is to push his Everest climb to August to allow more time for fundraising, but an off-season climb comes with a different set of risks.

“With certain mountains, you have a window where the weather is more predictable and stable,” Middleton said. The majority of people who climb Mount Everest do so between April and June. Moving outside of that range can mean more snow and weather at least 20 degrees colder than normal.

Middleton found guides that operate in the off season, and he has now introduced the potential for colder weather and snow into his training.

He had a taste of what climbing in those conditions would be like during his 16-day sojourn on Aconcagua. He and five other climbers experienced temperatures of minus 40 degrees and winds at 70 mph. The weather conditions forced them to remain an additional day at base camp, he said.

At 20,000 feet, they faced 40-50 percent oxygen, 50 mph winds and temperatures near minus five degrees. The following day, they woke up in the early morning hours and began climbing at 5 a.m. By early afternoon, Middleton and the three remaining climbers made it to the top.

After returning from Argentina, Jermaine Middleton, 31, of Austell, headed to Ouray, Colorado, for ice climbing. Middleton has been training to climb Mount Everest in the hopes of becoming the first American-born black man to scale the highest peak above sea level. CONTRIBUTED BY JERMAINE MIDDLETON
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I feel like it has helped better prepare me for Everest,” said Middleton, who upon returning to the States, immediately headed for Ouray, Colorado, to do some ice climbing and ended up encountering a winter storm.

Now back in metro Atlanta, Middleton is training 100 percent for Everest — running, maybe doing an Ironman and possibly climbing Mount Rainier — whether his moment on Everest comes in two weeks or five months.

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