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A smiling Gautam Patil donning a yellow artic parka.A Long Way to Make a Point

In 2000, three years before he enrolled at SFSU to pursue a second bachelor's degree, Gautam Patil found himself in the middle of a crevasse field on a mountainside in Southern Russia. As storm clouds gathered overhead, he was forced to descend unexpectedly. A few near misses with the crevasses, a few falls into glacial pools and one slide down a 50-foot cliff later, he emerged severely bruised and cut. Just 10 days later he was back on his feet and back on the mountain. This time he reached the top of Mount Elbrus, the tallest summit in Europe. "The villagers there thought I was nuts," he says.

Fast forward to today, and Patil, an aspiring doctor, has climbed five more of the world's tallest summits: Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Denali, Vinson Massif and Kosciusko. He says people still think he's nuts, especially when he explains his summer plans. He will climb the last and most notorious of the seven summits, Mount Everest. He is doing it to promote world peace.

Patil has teamed with the Everest Peace Project to show the world that people from various faiths can live together, work together and depend on each other while doing something extraordinary: ascending the 29,305-foot-tall Everest. In May, Patil, a Hindu born and raised in India, will attempt the climb with a Jewish climber from Israel, a Palestinian Muslim and two Christians: one from Africa, another from the U.S.

Patil took off the spring semester to focus on his training, which includes a daily cardio workout with a 52-pound pack on his back. He admits he has a fear of heights and doesn't like the cold. He also has a rare form of anemia that his team will consider as it sets its pace. "If I can do this," Patil says, "anyone can."

In the fall he plans to return to SFSU. He has some catching up to do before he finishes his degree, but his instructors believe he's up to the task. Ilkka Koskelo, a lecturer in the Physics and Astronomy Department, says, "As I recall, one semester Gautam showed up a few weeks late with some frostbite on his nose, but got up to speed pretty quickly."

At press time, Patil had started his Everest climb. To follow his progress: www.isummitworld.com

-- Adrianne Bee

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