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Women climbers aim for top of the world

Team No Boundaries trains for their assault on Everest.
Team No Boundaries trains for their assault on Everest.  

MOUNT EVEREST, Nepal (CNN) -- For the first time, an all-female U.S. climbing team is about to scale the world's highest peak, Mount Everest.

Five women -- as part of an adventure group called Team No Boundaries -- plan to begin their climb to Everest's 29,035-foot summit on Tuesday.

The women are as interesting and unique as their mission: Marjorie Cross, a 58-year-old grandmother, would be the oldest woman ever to ascend Everest. In addition, Cross is a cancer survivor and a diabetic.

Lynn Prebble, at age 49, has climbed 300 mountains worldwide. Kimberly Clark, 34, is a record-setting skier and nursing student. Jody Thompson, 38, is an accomplished climber and mountain biker. Thirty-five-year-old team captain, Alison Levine, has survived two heart surgeries.

"There's a lot of reasons why we're doing this," said Levine, an investment adviser from San Francisco, California. "One is we really just wanted to send a very strong message about stepping outside of your boundaries, pushing your limits and just getting out of your comfort zone -- not to mention getting off the couch."

The many challenges of climbing Everest include harsh weather conditions, which can determine the success or failure of the mission.

"The weather is mixed," Levine explained. "We're kind of waiting for a spell of good weather, which is why we're waiting until Tuesday to go. But everybody is feeling very good. We're all healthy, we're fit, we're strong and we're raring to go."

Another Everest obstacle is the effect of high altitude on the body.

"We've -- as a team -- been as high as 24,000 feet, and we all had pretty strong, banging headaches at that point," Levine said. "And that was uncomfortable -- but not scary."

A third Everest challenge is the danger presented by the mountain itself, Levine said.

Whatever blows your hair back: Cross, 58, would be the oldest woman to reach Everest's summit.
Whatever blows your hair back: Cross, 58, would be the oldest woman to reach Everest's summit.  

"I think that a couple of scary points were going through the icefalls for the first time, crossing the ladders, being a little sidetracked by an avalanche going off to the left of us. That was scary," she said. "And unfortunately, a British man fell down the Lhotse face about a week and a half ago. He fell to his death, and we were at the bottom of the Lhotse face at advance base camp and that was kind of a scary moment for us. And I think we all did have thoughts of 'Oh my gosh, what are we doing here?' "

The women said they hope to reach the summit by Friday. A normal climb to the summit takes four days, Levine said.

"We're going to push really strong for the top and hopefully we'll get there. And if we make it all the way to 29,035, we make it. And if we don't, we don't. But we're still going to be really proud of ourselves for just getting out there and trying."




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