The Iowa Senate began this fifth day of the “special” legislative session by honoring the 26-year-old Des Moines man who climbed Mt. Everest in May. Charlie Whittmack is the first Iowan to climb Mt. Everest, and he did it as part of a 50th anniversary expedition celebrating the first team to climb the world’s highest peak.Whittmack says it’s a great honor to be recognized by the Senate — a feeling Whittmack says he felt often in the past few months as he represented Iowans in the pursuit of a dream.Whittmack says in his mind “there’s no greater honor than the representation of the people and no pursuit more important than the chasing of a dream.” Whittmack says many people were surprised to meet an Iowa mountaineer — and considered him similar to a bobsledder from Jamaica or a bearded lady in a carnival. Whittmack reached the summit on his third attempt, and he made a harrowing descent because one of his shoe spikes was shot, and there was no food or water at the base camp he first reached.Whittmack says he was challenged by some of the most severe weather ever recorded in the mountain’s history, but Whittmack says as he continued to “trudge” he felt the support of folks back home. Senate President Mary Kramer of Clive called Whittmack an “extraordinary” young man.Whittmack is the grandson of former Iowa Governor Norman Erbe. His grandmother Jackie Erbe and his parents were there this morning as the Senate passed a resolution honoring the family’s mountaineer. Kramer says the family must be “overflowing with pride” after being out of touch with Whittmack during much of the time he was on the mountain. Kramer says it’s a “meaningful thing” for Iowa to have one of its young people demonstrate the kind of courage and perseverance Whittmack exhibited by climbing the mountain. After Senators honored Whittmack, they retreated to committee rooms where they’re meeting privately to review the economic stimulus package the House passed early this morning.
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