Thursday, July 2, 2020
NFL Receiver Enlists Peter Cetera, Others in Emilia’s Everest
Mark Pattison hams it up on a bicycle at Union Glacier in Antarctica.
Monday, December 30, 2019


Mark Pattison caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to lead his Washington Huskies to a 28-17 Orange Bowl comeback over the Oklahoma Sooners in 1985. He played wide receiver four years for the Los Angeles Raiders, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints.

And seven years ago, he decided to become the first NFL player to climb the Seven Summits—the highest mountains on each of the world’s seven continents and something only 350 people have done.

But the biggest challenge of his life came when his youngest daughter Emilia was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 8.

Mark Pattison, shown here on Mt. Rainier, says breathing in the mountain air is one of the best medicines he’s found during tough times.

“Emilia’s now 21 and she had to leave her university in Arizona last spring because she was transitioning from petit mal seizures where she blanks out for five to 10 seconds at a time to grand mal seizures, which can involve convulsions,” he said.

Determined to find a way to help, Pattison has organized a free event called “Emilia’s Everest: Overcoming Epilepsy” at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum.

The event, organized in association with the Wood River Community YMCA and the Church of the Big Wood, will feature Pattison, former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks Coach Jim Mora, seven-time World Champion Mountain Biker Rebecca Rusch, mountain climbing guide Peter Whittaker, former Washington Redskins Quarterback Tom Flick and former Chicago front man Peter Cetera.

Pattison will ask each about strategies they developed to overcome adversities in the vein of his podcast “Finding Your Summit.”

Mark Pattison, running in a 10K run at Squaw Valley, follows John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, which was later adopted Don James, his coach at the University of Washington.

And money from raffle items provided by Sun Valley Resort, the Limelight Hotel and Ketchum businesses will go to the National Epilepsy Foundation.

“Metaphorically speaking, we all have tough challenges—mine is Mount Everest, Emila’s is dealing with such things as not being able to get a driver’s license because of her epilepsy,” said Pattison.

“People often think that people in the spotlight don’t have challenges. But they get stuck, too. I think the audience will be able to relate to some of the things they’ve been through. And, hopefully, what they say will inspire people to go out and attack life.”

Pattison’s decision to take up the Seven Summits challenge was sparked by unfathomable loneliness. His father had just died of a massive stroke.  His marriage had fallen apart and his daughters were leaving home for college.

Mark Pattison, seen here at Devil’s Bedstead near Sun Valley, is a motivational speaker who has published a “Finding Your Summit” playbook full of self-improvement suggestions.

“I remember walking around the block with my chocolate Lab thinking: How did I get here? I felt stuck. Then I said: What am I going to do about it?”

Pattison started his odyssey by climbing 19,341-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2013. He climbed 18,510-foot Mt. Elbrus in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains. He ascended 22,841-foot Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina’s Andes and 7,310-foot Mt. Kosciusko in Australia—easily the easiest climb.

It was Alaska’s 20,310-foot Denali that has so far given him his toughest battle.

On his first attempt his party encountered brutal weather with minus-40 temperatures at 14,000-foot base camp and minus-80 temps at top. As one storm after another hit, they decided to reset. He returned the following year and made it to the top, pulling a 137-pound sled behind him.

“The one week we were there was magical weather. The day after we left, it turned awful.”

Antarctica’s 16,050-foot Vinson Massif, which he summitted in January 2019, was also frigid. But he hit a week of sunny weather.

“It’s a fascinating climb,” he said. “Only 2 percent of Antarctica is mountains. And it feels like you’re on the moon—there’s nothing living there but penguins. It’s barren--no trees, nothing green. During summer, when we were there, there was no nighttime—it was light 24 hours a day.  There is an 1,100-foot ice wall you have to climb, but the real challenge is the remoteness and the cold and having to wait out the weather if you’re there during a stormy period.”

Now 58, the only thing standing between Pattison and his completion of the Seven Summits challenge   is 29,029-foot Mt. Everest—Earth’s highest mountain and 6,000 feet higher than he’s set foot before.  But he believes he’s put himself in the best position he can by doing CrossFit every morning at the YMCA and hiking up Baldy every day near the home he bought in Ketchum nearly two years ago.

Pattison hopes to raise $29,029—one dollar for each foot of Mount Everest—to give to the National Epilepsy Foundation for research and public education about ways to help those having grand mal seizures.

Each year 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with epilepsy. One of 26 Americans will be diagnosed with   epilepsy over a lifetime.

“The disease affects the brain and there’s nothing out there for it, yet—we’ve tried everything,” Pattison said.

Pattison said factors seem to include people’s personal chemistry, their weight, diet, how much sleep they get and the amount of stress they’re subject to from things like college finals.

“We’ve tried the Keto diet and different medications. Emilia turned down a volleyball scholarship to cut down on stress. She refrains from drinking with her friends and staying up until 3 in the morning. And she’s tried a multitude of traditional and non-traditional medicine, including CBD. Nothing has proven the magic bullet so far. But I’m committed to help find that magic pill that will help Emilia and others.”


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