Former NFL wide receiver Mark Pattison, who spent the 1987-88 seasons with the New Orleans Saints, is now climbing to new heights.
As a seventh-round draft pick in 1985 (No. 188 overall), Pattison played for the Los Angeles Rams and Raiders before earning a roster spot with the Saints in '87, totaling 10 catches for 140 yards in his two-year career and becoming a member of the first team in franchise history to post a winning record, the 12-3 Saints of '87.
Now, Pattison is attempting to become the first NFL player to climb the Seven Summits of the World plus Lhotse, the world's fourth highest peak, within 24 hours of summiting Mount Everest. Pattison has conquered six of the world's seven summits with only Everest left on the list, which he plans to summit this spring.
The plan is for Pattison to depart from the United States for Nepal on March 30, where he will begin the Everest climb officially around April 7. His goal is to attempt to summit Everest roughly May 20, then trek up Lhotse immediately afterward. He will be using oxygen and will be climbing with Sherpas (elite mountaineers and experts in their local area). The group leader for the climb is Garrett Madison, the only American to summit K2 twice (the world's second-highest peak behind Everest).
"What happened is, this goes back to a goal," Pattison said. "You know, I said, eight, nine years ago, to try to become the first NFL player to claim seven summits, and a lot has evolved over this time. And in 2019, there's another gentleman by the name of Craig Hanneman. He's, I think, 10 years older than me, but he actually became the first NFL guy to climb the seven summits, we weren't really necessarily in a race and I wasn't even really aware of it until somebody made me aware of it about six months ago. And so we decided to take a pivot and not only set my sights much higher, but to not only do the seven summits but also Lhoste within 24 hours. It sits in a saddle. And so when we go down to our tent (after summiting Everest), I'll come down and jump in my tent for a couple hours. And then I'll be able to go up the backside, which is again, the fourth highest mountain in the world, which is Lhotse, and then come down. Only a handful of people have done it. It's gonna be epic effort and you know, fingers crossed, I can actually pull it off."
Pattison's journey to summit Everest and Lhoste would make him one of just a few dozen alpinists to have summited two 8,000-plus meter peaks within 24 hours. Hanneman, former Steelers and Patriots defensive lineman who played in the 1970s, has climbed Everest and the Seven Summits (but not Lhotse).
Upon retirement from the NFL, Pattison has spent time in Sun Valley, Idaho, home of the first destination ski resort in the United States. Here, Pattison has been training for his journey with his best friend and former NFL head coach Jim L. Mora, son of former New Orleans Saints coach Jim E. Mora.
"It's been a blessing having him here," Pattison said. "I live in Sun Valley, Idaho. I'm a West Coast guy, I grew up in Seattle, and then I'd moved down to California. And of course, you're at zero elevation. And you know, as I got more near these goals, I just decided to go all in. And so I packed up my bags, I moved to Sun Valley, where at 6,000 feet, and just kind of as the whole clock spawned Jim having to move here, too. And so we've been on this crazy workout. You know, every night, we'll do it again, tonight, cruise up the mountain, you know, you're at 6,000, we've got up to 10,000. So I'm getting that vertical in that's needed. Part of that too is that also helps to build red blood cells. So you can acclimate much better when you get to an altitude where I'm sure you've heard where people get sick from being too high."
The Covid-19 pandemic forced Pattison to put a halt to his plans of summiting Everest last spring. Pattison's daughter Emilia has struggled with epilepsy for 12 years.
"We know that Covid-19 has put a damper on everyone's plans lately," Pattison said. "And we were initially scheduled to climb Everest a year ago. But now the time has come."
In 2020, Pattison teamed up with an organization called Higher Ground to create a campaign called Emilia's Everest-The Lhotse Challenge.
To raise $1,000 toward an overall goal of $27,940 which is the height of Lhotse. Pattison's new goal has him doubling down on his training and asking fans to donate to his personal Higher Ground page.
"My training and motivation go toward trying to help others like my daughter who are in a daily fight to overcome their own adversity," Pattison posted on his blog. "Higher Ground also serves the military community to help these heroes & others overcome cognitive and adaptive issues.
"To match their fight, my training will go toward scaling Mount Everest and then coming down to high camp at 26,000, resting for a bit, and taking on Lhotse within 24 hours. It's a monster challenge but nothing compared to the many men and women who go through the daily fight like my daughter."
Fans can follow Pattison's journey here.