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Climb Every Mountain

When Greg Mortenson stumbled into a Pakistani village, it was the start of a new life for him - and for thousands of children.

Greg Mortenson with students at the Gultort War Refugee Girls School in Baltistan, Pakistan.

Greg Mortenson with students at the Gultort War Refugee Girls School in Baltistan, Pakistan.

It began, Greg Mortenson recalls, because of a little amber-bead necklace that belonged to his youngest sister, Christa. When Christa, an epileptic, died at the age of 23, big brother Greg found the necklace among her belongings and put it in his pocket as a keepsake.

A few weeks later, Mortenson – a nurse by profession, mountaineer by vocation – was invited to join a group of climbers heading into the vast Karakoram mountains of Pakistan to tackle K2, the region’s highest mountain. Mortenson accepted, realizing that he had been selected as much for his nursing experience as for his mountaineering skills. Though less experienced than the rest of the team, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound young man was confident that he was in good shape for the toughest climb of his life.

He also had something more esoteric in mind. What better memorial could there be to his beloved little sister than to place her necklace on the 28,267-foot peak of the second tallest mountain on Earth?

Read the entire article in the January 2009 issue