Seven Up, Seven Down: Mike Hamill ’99 Reaches High Points on All Seven Continents
By Neal Burdick ’72
Mike Hamill '99, a professional mountain climbing guide, has climbed the "seven summits" (the highest points on all seven continents) in less than a year. He achieved the rare feat in 2008, in, by his calculation, 262 days. He is one of a handful ever to accomplish the feat, and, as far as can be determined, the first Laurentian.
If that’s not impressive, consider this: he’s done it twice; in 2009, it took him a comparatively slow 11 months. Five of the peaks he climbed as part of his job; the other two he did just for fun.
In a press release from the firm he works for, International Mountain Guides, or IMG (www.mountainguides.com/guides.shtml), he states that the climb of Denali (North America’s highest mountain, also known as Mount McKinley, in Alaska) was the smoothest, while Kosciuszko, in Australia, was the most difficult thanks to bad weather and Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest peak, was the hardest. In addition to climbing the "seven summits" in less than a year, Hamill also climbed Mt. Rainier (twice) and the world’s sixth-highest mountain, the nearly-27,000-foot Cho Oyu, in the Himalayas, in the same period.
Hamill has been a year-round professional guide for eight years, based in Seattle. He earned his St. Lawrence degree in environmental studies-biology, was active in the Outing Club, the Outdoor Program (for which he was a guide) and the Cycling Club, and was also a member of the Nordic ski team.
Hamill tells the rest of his story: “I began hiking and winter camping in high school in New Hampshire, but it wasn't until I got to St. Lawrence and became involved in the Outing Club and Outdoor Program that I started to climb, mentored by the older students. I spent many weekends while at SLU climbing in the Adirondacks. The community of students involved in the outdoors and climbing at SLU was a huge part of what inspired me to climb.”
“I am a senior guide for both IMG and Alaska Mountaineering School(AMS) and am in the field an average of 200 days a year for work, and probably another 100 days a year for personal trips,” says Hamill, who lives in Seattle but admits “I am rarely there.” He hopes to complete his third lap of the seven highest summits within a year.
“The mountains have provided me with an amazing education and an excuse to travel and get to know the world,” Hamill says. I've met many unique and amazing people who I don't think I would have met had I not chosen this path. It has been a great adventure and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. Climbing and guiding has influenced every aspect of my life and has given me a healthier and more balanced perspective and philosophy toward life.”