When Patrick Hickey, a nursing professor at the University of South Carolina, reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 24, he became one of the few people to ever reach the top of the tallest mountain on all seven continents.
And Hickey became the first person to ever take a NASCAR Nextel Cup flag to the top of the world.
To call Hickey a devoted Jeff Gordon fan would be like saying he likes to hike and climb. He loves Gordon, which explains why he reached the summit on Everest on the 24th of the month. It was no coincidence.
When he reached the summit, the temperature was 40-below zero and the wind was howling hard enough to freeze your fingers in 30 seconds if you took them out of your gloves. Hickey risked it to get a photo with the Nextel Cup flag, which he delivered to Gordon on Saturday.
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“I wanted to show to all the people doubting the importance of NASCAR that the fan support has spread even to the top of the world,” Hickey said.
Of course, getting to the top of Everest is the easy part. Getting down is the hard part.
Hickey said 80 percent of deaths on Everest happen on the climb down and he admitted he wasn’t doing well himself. When he reached the summit, he lost sight in his right eye, had blurry vision in his left eye and thought he might never return from the top.