Montana State University Professor of Geology David Lageson and world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker start their trip to the top of the world today.

The two will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Mount Everest. And classrooms across the state will be able to follow along.

Anker -- team captain of The North Face climbing athlete team and a non-degree graduate student in MSU’s Department of Earth Sciences -- will lead an American team up the West Ridge. The expedition is sponsored by National Geographic, The North Face, MSU and National Science Foundation EPSCoR.

The 61-year-old Lageson – who oversees Anker’s graduate studies -- will climb the South East Ridge route of Everest with other team members who are sponsored athletes of The North Face, including MSU alumnus Kristoffer Erickson and MSU geology alumnus Travis Corthouts. If all goes as planned, the two teams will meet at the top of Mount Everest and descend together down the South East Ridge route.

The mountain, on the border between Nepal and Tibet, is the world’s tallest mountain at 29,035 feet.

Lageson has climbed several 14,000-foot peaks in his home state of Colorado. His primary work on the expedition will focus on “telling the geologic story of Mount Everest” to schools throughout Montana, as part of an NSF EPSCoR-funded education/outreach program created by MSU’s Extended University. In addition, Lageson is planning several research projects to help answer the many questions that remain about the geological history of Mount Everest.

Extended University has built an MSU-based website at\everest that will allow visitors to follow and interact with the climbers. Anker plans to participate in a blog that will be posted onto Facebook and other social media. It will be more educational and less introspective than many Everest blogs have been, Anker said.

The outreach team also developed classroom curriculum that targets fifth graders but could be adapted for other ages. Mount Everest “teacher kits” will go to Montana teachers who applied in advance and were selected to receive them. The kits contain some of the same equipment that the climbers will use, including professional GPS units, geologic rock hammers, digital cameras, weather-proof notepads, space pens, National Geographic maps and more. The kits also contain prayer flags, which reflect the Buddhist culture in that region. Several companies and professional organizations contributed to the kits. Here's a link for a complete list, go to

Lageson and Anker are leaving Bozeman approximately two months before their ascent, because they need time to adjust to the altitude, Lageson said. He and Anker will fly to Katmandu, Nepal, and then fly to the small mountain village of Lukla, where the elevation is approximately 9,300 feet. From there, they will hike slowly to Everest Base Camp (EBC) at an elevation of approximately 17,600 feet.