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Bow police officer seeks help to tackle Everest

Jake St. Pierre scales Lobuche peak at more than 20,000 feet in fall 2013.

(Courtesy)

Jake St. Pierre scales Lobuche peak at more than 20,000 feet in fall 2013. (Courtesy)

An avid hiker since childhood, Bow police Officer Jake St. Pierre said it was a no-brainer when he was offered a spot on a small team of climate researchers to climb Mount Everest and scale neighboring peak Lhotse, even though it meant taking out a $12,000 loan and the prospect of unemployment upon return.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I had to go for it.”

St. Pierre, 35, will be part of a six- to eight-person team tasked to gather snow samples and other measurements over April and May to study how pollutants affect climate at high altitudes. The group is organized by the American Climber Science Program, a partner of the American Alpine Club.

Although grants from groups including the National Science Foundation and Rice University will help offset expenses for the trip, said trip leader John All, St. Pierre will need to pay upward of $13,000 out of pocket for costs that include airfare, climbing permits and gear. In preparation for his departure March 25, he has begun a grassroots effort to help fund the trip.

“I send emails every day to people. Sometimes I get a call back, other times I don’t,” St. Pierre said. He said he hopes companies that feel as excited as he does about the project will contribute.

So far, he has raised $2,500, including a $500 contribution from New Hampshire Peterbilt in Bow and $250 from Grappone Toyota.

Matthew Couto, a co-owner of Dunkin’ Donuts stores in the Concord area, contributed $1,500 after meeting with St. Pierre more than a month ago.

“He was extremely passionate,” Couto said. St. Pierre will bring a banner bearing the business’s name on the trip.

As for his job, St. Pierre has submitted a request for unpaid leave with the Bow Police Department. It must be approved by Bow’s police chief and town manager.

Once in Nepal, St. Pierre and the team will begin at base camp in early April doing safety and research training before climbing to the South Col on Mount Everest, some 3,000 feet short of the summit, then scaling Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world at just less than 28,000 feet.

Along the route, the group will collect roughly 150 snow samples, All said. He co-founded the American Science Climber Program in 2011 to increase the accessibility of mountain science.

St. Pierre was chosen for the trip from a pool of more than 25 applicants, in part for his energy, which is

important when working at high elevations, All said. During the trip St. Pierre will help take measurements and carry snow samples, which at 1 gallon each weigh roughly 6 pounds.

One goal of the trip is to see how the presence of dust and black carbon on the snow impacts glacier melt, since the Himalayas are a critical water source, All said.

Conducting the study at high altitude is key because a big question is how this dust is transported through the atmosphere.

“Once you start talking 8,000 meters of elevation, you are effectively getting up near the top of the troposphere,” All said. “Any dust that high is able to move across the country, or across the world.”

Data collected during this trip combined with information from the organization’s other sites including Peru and the Andes, All said, helps the group understand the global transport of black carbon.

“It will be interesting to see exactly what the effects are in the most extreme place in the world,” St. Pierre said.

St. Pierre, who owns a gym in Bow called Juggernaut Summit Performance, also plans to run an experiment of his own, conducting what he calls the world’s highest boot camp class to see how the body reacts to exercise at high altitude. Instead of barbells, participants will use rocks, he said.

This trip will be St. Pierre’s third climb in Nepal. On his first trek in 2010, he climbed to Everest base camp at about 17,000 feet. He saw the Himalayas up close for the first time, but it left him wanting more.

Last fall, he climbed Lobuche peak at more than 20,000 feet. It was during that trip that he met a researcher who encouraged him to apply to the American Climber Science Program.

“Each time I have gone, the mountains have gotten bigger,” he said.

The training is leading up to Everest, which St. Pierre plans to summit in 2016.

For more information, visit jsp1924.com.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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