Mt. Everest beckons NMHS grad

Michael Matty will attempt to complete the Seven Summits

Michael Matty has always loved the outdoors.

While growing up in New Milford, Kent Falls was a regular haunt of his.

After hearing a talk at New Milford Public Library about hiking the Appalachian Trail, he hiked area sections of the trail as a teenager.

Yet the 1981 New Milford High School graduate said he never dreamed of the adventures that lay before him.

This April 28, Mr. Matty will hopefully celebrate his 48th birthday while climbing Mt. Everest from the south side of the mountain in Nepal. If he summits at 29,035 feet above sea level in May, he will have climbed the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

Married to Jeanne Matty and with two daughters, Emmie, 24, and Siobhan, 20, he said there has been some concern on the part of family members over the years as he has summited mountains.

"With the upcoming Everest climb there is a higher level of concern," Mr. Matty said. "Having to fill out a body disposal form and knowing that you pass bodies of climbers who certainly didn't go there to die but to succeed in summiting has raised concern. My father's worried as well as my wife and daughters."

"All you can do is control what you can: be healthy enough, prepared enough, minimize the time you're in dangerous stretches on the mountain," he offered.

The seed was planted a few years ago for his conquest of the Seven Summits.

"I was with a friend one day and he said, `Let's climb [Mt.] Kilimanjaro [in Africa].' He bailed on me, but I did the climb in 2006," Mr. Matty recalled.

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Michael Matty, who grew up in New Milford, hopes to begin an ascent of Mt. Everest in coming weeks. If he reaches the summit in May, he would have climbed the highest mountain on each of the seven continents: 2006: Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa (19,340 feet above sea level) 2006: Mt. Elbrus in Russia (18,510 feet above sea level) 2007: Mt. Vinson in Antarctica (16,067 feet above sea level) 2008: Mt. McKinley in Alaska (20,320 feet above sea level) 2010: Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina (22,841 feet above sea level) 2010: Mt. Kosciusko in Australia (7,310 feet above sea level) 2011: Mt. Everest, Nepal side (29,035 feet above sea level), planned this spring

"While climbing, I met a guy who was talking about climbing the Seven Summits -- the highest mountains on seven continents," he said.

"There are only 300 people who have summited all seven," Mr. Maty explained. "You have a better chance of meeting someone who's been an astronaut than a member of The Club of 7, as it's called."

Later in 2006, with Mt. Kilimanjaro behind him, Mr. Matty climbed Mt. Elbrus in Russia. In 2007, he climbed Mt. Vinson in Antarctica and 2008 found him conquering Mt. McKinley in Alaska, the highest peak in North America.

Mr. Matty made his first attempt at summiting Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina in 2009 -- but found himself "having a hard time acclimating at about 16,500 feet," he reported.

"I had to make the decision to go back. At a certain point, you become a liability to the team rather than an asset," Mr. Matty said. "If you get pulmonary or cerebral edema, it can take the whole team to get you down."

Undaunted, he returned to the South American mountain in 2010. This time, he summited Mt. Aconcagua at 22,841 feet.

With two summits to go, Mr. Matty traveled to Australia last fall and climbed Mt. Kosciusko, the lowest of the seven summits with its 7,310 foot peak.

"There's some controversy over whether you should climb Mt. Kosciusko on the Australian continent or The Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania, which is higher," Mr. Matty noted. "But to me, Australia's the actual continent, darn it. So I climbed Kosciusko."

To prepare for climbs, he works out four to five days a week twice a day and treks up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire periodically on weekends. Mt. Washington treks get him "used to the wind and working with gear on."

"Last weekend on Mt. Washington, it was minus-40 degrees," he said. "You don't take a glove off to do something and set it down. It blows away. I met another climber once who said, `you lose a glove, you lose a hand.' "

Things can go wrong "really quick" on a summit attempt, Mr. Matty explained. Lack of oxygen, going with minimal amounts of sleep, it's "real easy for things to get really complicated really fast," he said.

That said, he keeps climbing.

"There's a serene beauty being on the summits. Each time you reach a summit, that moment's burned into your memory," Mr. Matty said. "I relive it -- crystal clear -- every time I think of it."

Each summit has been unique, he noted. Mt. Vinson in Antarctica was isolated. A Russian cargo plane dropped off his team of six and wouldn't be back for three to four weeks, weather permitting.

"Fall and break a leg, and you lie and wait," he said.

Mr. Matty admitted that experience gave his wife and father pause because of its remoteness.

Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania "starts out as a climb in a equatorial jungle with monkeys jumping off of trees and, when you reach the top (at 19,340 feet), you're on a glacier," he recalled.

As Mr. Matty prepares to summit Mt. Everest -- the highest peak in the world reported to be the final resting place for 120 climbers -- he feels he is prepared.

Leaving May 26 from the United States, he will fly for three days and then start a 10-day trek to the Everest base camp at 17,000 feet. He expects to summit the second week in May.

When he ascends the legendary mountain, Mr. Matty will carry a picture of his late brother, Billy, who died in 2010 at age 48 of natural causes.

When he is on Everest, Michael Matty is sure he will be accompanied in spirit by his older brother.

"I am absolutely not surprised that Michael is accomplishing this," said his dad, William Matty. "He puts his mind to what he wants to do, studies it and then decides he can do it."

"We lived in the country on Aspetuck Ridge in New Milford for 30 years," the elder Mr. Matty reflected. "Michael was constantly in the woods with his dog as a boy He's taking a picture of Billy, as a boy, with him to Everest. They were very close. He's always thinking about family."

Michael Matty is the president of St. Germain Investment Management, a financial firm with offices in Springfield, Mass. and Hartford. He lives in Long Meadow.

His father lives in Brookfield with his second wife, Susan.