Michael Grigsby, 42, joins an exclusive group of nine climbers who have completed the amazing feat.
Grigsby said he got the idea a couple of years ago when he was sailing from Malaysia to Thailand. He had a lot of time to talk to another passenger, an avid mountain climber, which led him to start thinking about his next adventure.
“When I semi-retired from sailing, my wife kind of wanted me to keep my feet on the ground,” Grigsby said. “That seemed like a good alternative, maybe just not at sea level.”
About 3,500 people have successfully climbed Mt. Everest, known as the world’s tallest mountain, with a peak at 29,029 feet above sea level. Only 300 climbers have made the 27,605 feet to the top of Lhotse, which is connected to Everest but considered much more dangerous than its taller counterpart, Grigsby said.
“It’s much less traveled,” he said. “Everest has an established route and it’s well known among mountain climbers where the hazards are.”
Grigsby said the route to the peak of Lhotse has a curved shape, allowing any rocks, snow or debris to fall immediately on the climbers beneath.
“Only nine people have ever climbed Lhotse during a single-effort expedition,” he said. “I was on the second expedition that’s ever tried. It was a fairly tremendous physical challenge.”
Grigsby, who owns Marietta-based North American Container Corp., said he’s fortunate to have the support of his partners at work as well as his wife, Yhaira, and two daughters, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old.
But he said it was difficult being away from home for the two-month trip.
“Thankfully, the Internet makes it a little easier,” he said. “My 1-year-old learned how to walk while I was gone. That was a little heartbreaking.”
The Walton High School graduate said he started the Mt. Everest climb with a group of 12, but only nine ended up scaling the mountain’s summit, with two having to be medically evacuated after developing pulmonary edema. On Lhotse, he was one of only three people who made it to the top.
“(The three of us) were the fourth, fifth and sixth people to have summitted two 8,000 meter peaks within 24 hours,” he said.
Training for the expedition took about two and a half years, with Grigsby climbing successively higher mountains around the world including Mt. Rainier in Seattle, Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, Aconcagua in Argentina and a series of volcanoes in Ecuador.
Moving forward, Grigsby said he plans to continue trekking more mountains, with plans to scale a few on the western end of the Himalayas and Karakorum, a mountain range that spans parts of Pakistan, India and China.
“Once you establish yourself on Everest … you tend to start getting invitations to other things your wife doesn’t appreciate,” Grigsby said with a laugh.
Despite the jokes, Grigsby said his family and friends were excited to watch him reach the top of the mountain via a live streaming website.
“They stayed up the whole night as we climbed to the top and watching everything,” he said. “It’s probably a lot slower pace than watching a football game on TV, but it’s still fairly exciting to know progress is being made.”
Regardless of which mountain is next on his list, Grigsby said he doesn’t plan to quit any time soon.
“I will keep on climbing as long as I am physically able and nothing too terrible happens to me or someone close to me,” he said.