Buffalo Grove native Dave Roskelley spent the better part of a decade training to climb Mount Everest, the tallest peak on Earth.
It's a dangerous expedition. Hundreds have died trying.
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But about a month before his ascent in May, the 44-year-old Roskelley received a go-ahead from, of all things, a Panda Express fortune cookie.
"Soon," the tiny piece of paper said, "you will be sitting on top of the world."
Talk about good fortune.
"My wife and I both laughed," Roskelley, now a Utah resident, told the Daily Herald in an email after accomplishing the feat. "(It) seemed very fitting given what was coming."
Fewer than 4,000 people have climbed to the top of Everest, 29,029 feet above sea level. It had been a goal for Roskelley since he began mountain climbing as a teenager.
"I like to do difficult things and challenge myself," the 1986 Stevenson High School graduate explained. "Hopefully I can inspire others to do difficult things."
'I was in awe'
Roskelley's passion for mountain climbing developed when he was 12 or 13 and saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time on a driving trip.
"We pulled over on the side of Interstate 80 and I was in awe," Roskelley recalled. "I was thinking, 'How do I get to the top?' It awoke something in my DNA."
The mountains of the western United States have been a regular draw for Roskelley, who climbs and skis their peaks.
But his ascents haven't been limited to America. Inspired by Richard Bass' book "Seven Summits," he's climbed the highest points on six continents.
Those destinations were:
• Mount McKinley in Alaska.
• Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
• Mount Elbrus in Russia.
• Mount Aconcagua in Argentina.
• The Carstensz Pyramid in Papua Indonesia.
• Mount Everest, which is in Nepal and China.
"I plan to finish my quest and travel to Antarctica to climb Vinson Massif in a few years," Roskelley said.
He's also climbed the Alps, Mount Fuji in Japan and other minor peaks in the Himalayas, the Asian mountain rage that includes Mount Everest.
Climbing Everest was a longtime dream for Roskelley, a partner in an environmental engineering firm who also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Utah.
"I've been working toward this goal for the past five to 10 years," he said. "Thankfully, I have a very supportive and understanding wife who puts up with my dangerous hobby."
Roskelley attempted the Everest climb with a group of friends and professional guides from a Washington state outfit called the Western Guiding Company. Going with guides was a must, he said.
"The Nepalese government makes it essentially impossible to climb Everest without some type of guiding company," he said.
The group was gone six weeks, most of which was spent acclimating to the climate and altitude. The climb itself took six days, from base to peak.
The actual summit day took almost 24 hours, from a mountainside camp to the peak and back to the camp.
"We heard that the average climber burns 14,000 calories just on summit day," Roskelley said. "Your body is burning thousands of calories just to stay warm."
The weather for the summit climb was perfect, he said. It was 20 degrees below zero, but it was sunny and there was a light breeze.
From their spot on the top of the world, they could see for miles.
"You can begin to see the curvature of the Earth from that altitude," Roskelley said. "(It was) truly amazing. It was also surreal to think we were as high as a commercial jet at cruising altitude."
When he reached the summit, Roskelley took out a small, laminated sign bearing Stevenson High School's athletic logo for a photograph. He left it atop the mountain.
"I played soccer at Stevenson and thought it would be fun to support my alma mater," he said.
Stevenson High officials were touched by the gesture.
"We've had a lot of graduates reach great heights, but I think Dave can lay claim to reaching the highest," spokesman Jim Conrey said in an email. "We're glad to see that even though he left Stevenson a while ago, it hasn't left him."
As for that Panda Express fortune, Roskelley did his best to accomplish its prediction.
"I stood 95 percent of the time at the summit, but I actually sat down for a minute to literally fulfill the fortune," he said.
The physical demands of the climb were about what Roskelley expected. The emotional toll was a bit of a surprise.
"I have three sons, and it was tough to be away from them," he said. "I'm a very involved dad, and I hate missing my kids' sporting events."
With Everest crossed off his to-do list, Roskelley already is looking forward to an Antarctic climb and hopefully a side trip to the South Pole.
His yearning for adventure shows no sign of receding. To use his words, he's a man who wants to see what's over the next horizon.
"My wife tells me I was born in the wrong century," Roskelley joked. "If this was 1492, I'd be standing in line to get on the Pinta, Nina or Santa Maria to the New World."