They haven’t climbed Everest yet. But Tommy Danger and Mark Nolan already have been on top of the world.
Officially, it happened in the first half-hour of November 3, 2016, though it was still the 2nd where they were: Tommy in a bar in Park City, Utah, the battery on his phone down to 1%; Mark in a sports bar in Denver, swamped by crowd about 500 people strong. When a beaming Kris Bryant fielded that slow bouncer off the bat of Michael Martinez and made the throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base for the final out of the 2016 World Series, Tommy and Mark – two lifelong Chicago Cubs fans – had reached the pinnacle of sports-inspired jubilation, a climb 108 years in the making (with a 17-minute rain delay thrown in just before the end, just to milk a few final moments of tortured anguish from Cubs faithful).
Tommy freely and fondly admits he cried his eyes out. “Like a little baby,” he said.
Mark, in the middle of a mob, wasn’t sure what to feel.
“We were all kind of in shock, watching it all go down and thinking, ‘Is this actually happening?’ ” Mark recently recalled, still sounding somewhat unsure whether it really had happened. “We were just celebrating, hugging complete strangers, and everybody was wondering, ‘Well, what do we do now?’ ”
It’s a good question. And there’s a very exclusive – and ever-shrinking – club of people who could answer it first-hand. A Bloomberg article written during the Series estimated there were about 25 people in Chicago who were alive back in 1908 – the year of the Cubs’ most recent chance for a championship celebration. They’d be the only ones who might know.
Which made Tommy and Mark about as equipped as anyone to know what to do after such an emotional peak has been reached. Together, they have climbed four of the iconic Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. They have ascended to the top of Africa (Kilimanjaro: 19,341 feet, Nov. 19, 2013), Europe (Elbrus: 18,510 feet, Aug. 2, 2014), South America (Aconcagua: 22,838 feet, Jan. 10, 2015) and North America (Denali: 20,322 feet, May 30, 2015). Breathing the rare air at the top is something they’ve enjoyed before.
“There are some similarities in those experiences, in the excitement leading up to it,” said Mark. “After it’s done, you just have to climb back down and get off the mountain.”
And in the case of Tommy and Mark, along with their filmmaking partner, John Burkett, you just start preparing for the next climb – which in their case begins this week. Over the weekend, they summited Mount Kosciuszko, the highest point on mainland Australia (7,310 feet), though it’s a point of debate whether it belongs on the definitive list of the Seven Summits. On some of the more literal lists – those counting only the seven physical continents themselves – Koz makes the cut. But many lists count Carstensz Pyramid instead. And that’s next up on Tommy and Mark’s checklist.
Carstensz Pyramid (16,024 feet) actually is located in the Papua province of Indonesia (which is considered part of Asia), on the island of New Guinea (which is considered part of Australia). The Oceania region encompasses Australia and many of the islands to its north. Carstensz, then, becomes that region’s representative on most Seven Summits rosters.
No matter how you count it, only 416 people had climbed all Seven Summits as of early Nov. 2016 – a different kind of exclusive club Tommy and Mark will be 5/7s of the way to joining by the end of next week.
They’re expected to begin their four-day trek through the jungle on Feb. 15th, after which they’ll spend about four days climbing. “Around the eighth day will be Summit Day,” said Mark.
After that, they climb back down, get off the mountain, and get ready for their next trip to the top of the world.
Tommy Danger, Mark Nolan and filmmaker John Burkett (Red Tide Productions) are climbing the Seven Summits to benefit the More Than Just Me Foundation. They hope their adventure – More Than Just Mountains – will call attention to and raise funds to support a variety of causes, ranging from Cystic Fibrosis to providing clean water, food and supplies to orphanages around the world. To contribute to the More Than Just Mountains campaign, visit their Flipgiving fundraising page below.