MILLBROOK, N.Y. (AP) – Upstate New Yorker Walid Abuhaidar hopes to reach the summit of Mount Everest on Wednesday and become the youngest American to stand on the 29,035-foot-high apex.

His ascent would take the title away from Joby Ogwyn, 28, of Shreveport, La., who stood on Everest’s peak May 12, 1999, at age 24.

“It’s a great challenge,” Abuhaidar, 23, told the Poughkeepsie Journal during a cellular phone interview Saturday from Advanced Base Camp, 23,100 feet above sea level.

“It’s tough to climb when you have 30 pounds (of gear) on your back,” he said. “But there’s a feeling of accomplishment when you do it.”

Weather, particularly the wind, will play the biggest factor in deciding whether his six-person team – divided into two groups – reach the summit. On Saturday, winds ranged between 80 and 100 mph, said Abuhaidar of Millbrook, 80 miles north of New York City.

Abuhaidar, a sophomore at Boston University, decided to make the trek about six months ago.

“He said, ‘I’m doing well in school. I feel it will help me get experience and find myself.’ I said, ‘OK. Why not?”‘ said his father, Munir Abuhaidar. “In my family, my father had the theory that you say ‘yes’ unless you have a good reason to say ‘no.”‘

Abuhaidar has already reached the top of Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska – North America’s tallest peak – Illimani in Bolivia, and Mount Aconcagua on the Chile-Argentine border.

His fellow climbers this trip are expedition leader Dave Pritt, Conan Harrod and Philip James, all of Great Britain, Patricia McGuirk of Ireland and Peter Madew of Australia.

If he reaches the top of Everest, Abuhaidar plans to “snap a few pictures” and leave quickly.

“Our main concern is safety,” he said. “We only have a certain amount of oxygen.”

Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand was the first person to reach Everest’s summit, 5.5 miles above sea level, on May 29, 1953.

To check his progress:

AP-ES-05-20-03 1155EDT

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