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Iowans Make History as They Climb to New Heights

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa  --  Two Iowans made history recently by climbing the highest mountain in the world.

A University of Northern Iowa professor and his cousin became the first Iowans to summit Mount Everest from the north route. KWWL's Jessica Hartman talked to the men who are among only two other Iowans to ever climb the mountain.

Wearing shorts and tennis shoes in the recent warm weather is a stark contrast to the conditions in which the Andersons spent the last 38 days.

"It is pretty daunting. You know Mount Everest is big, but then you get to base camp and actually see the size and the whole mountain. It is huge. It really hits you hard at that point," said John Anderson.

Then begins the more than a month long, slow trek, with the body fighting the altitude with every step.

"Every time you move up to a higher elevation, you're miserable. You'e just completely miserable. I had headaches, I was vomiting from the altitude," said Andy Anderson.

They say the altitude tends to be the toughest component, no matter how fit you are.

"The mountain doesn't care, the most important thing to success is mental toughness and patience."

The Andersons conquering the challenging conditions, waving the Iowa flag on top of the highest peak.

"Sitting on the summit was pure elation. We did get to see the sunrise over the world on top of the world, which is pretty cool."

But the accomplishment is about more than an item on the bucket list. John is a National Guard veteran with two tours in Afghanistan.

"The way I've dealt with reintegration coming back to the U.S. was climbing. You form tight bonds with your climbing partners, which is kind of militaristic and being outdoors and being active, I think, really helps deal with those issues," he said.

The cousins have partnered with the UNI Veterans Affairs Office to take veterans on hiking, climbing, and snow-shoeing trips. They hope to use their Mount Everest climb to raise awareness for the program and help veterans throughout Iowa adjust back to civilian life.