JBL details his experience climbing Mt. Elbrus

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June 28, 2012

I had three goals in trying to climb the highest mountain in Europe, 18,511-feet high Mt. Elbrus. (PHOTOS | PAST UPDATES)

I wanted to raise money for the kids I work with daily in Bermuda (Beyond Rugby Bermuda), I wanted to plant a WWE flag on the summit and I wanted to not die. I accomplished two out of the three. (WATCH: JBL AFTER THE CLIMB)

I have worked with WWE since December 1995 and because of them I have been able to do some wonderful things. I have been to the war zones of the Middle East eight different times and was part of the first civilian group to visit Afghanistan shortly after war started. I was with WWE when we went down, as one of first groups to do so, to thank the heroes that were still saving lives in the burning rubble at Ground Zero. I was with WWE when we were the first mass gathering just two days after 9/11 in one of the most emotional events I have ever been part of in a sold out arena in Houston. From Make-A-Wish to literacy programs to an anti-bullying campaign, WWE has gone way beyond what companies would dream to do to make the world a better place.

So, when I decided to climb the Seven Summits (highest mountain on each continent) and do it to raise money for kids I work with daily in Bermuda that are deemed “at risk” by society, I knew I wanted to partner with my family again in WWE.

I’m 45 years old and have had a broken back, four knee surgeries and two herniated discs, so I knew this would not be easy. But, we tell our kids daily that everyone has problems, it’s what you do with what you have that matters. I wasn’t just raising money for the kids; I was doing my best to set an example. We all have mountains to climb, mine ahead of me were just literal.

I trained for more than half a year for Mt. Elbrus. I had gotten to where I would do a stair master up to three hours straight and when in New York City, climb up to 400 flights of stairs in my apartment building (which took 3 1/2 hours). I had gotten up to 18 miles hiking around Bermuda. I can’t run due to my injuries so I would walk the 18 miles, taking about 4 1/2 hours.

I trained walking with a backpack for several hours straight many times a week.

This was not a “Hollywood” production; this was something I put the time and effort in to accomplish, exactly what we tell our kids they must do to be successful.

My plan was, and is, to climb the Seven Summits over the next two years, and Mt. Elbrus was first on the list. (WATCH: JBL PREPARES FOR THE CLIMB)

After flying through Moscow and St. Petersburg doing the normal tourist visits of Lenin, Red Square and the Hermitage while still training for what was to come, we arrived in the Baksan Valley which is located just north of Georgia and next to Chechnya. The valley was closed the year before due to the conflicts, and I was hoping that another conflict would wait till I had left.

We immediately started to acclimatize, which involved up to 10 hours of climbing at altitude. George Mallory had first developed this when trying to summit Mt. Everest in the 1920s. You hike higher to an altitude and then return to increase the red blood cell count in your body so your body can absorb more oxygen; though, this also raises the risk of heart attack.

Climbing for hour after hour straight up is hard; doing it with half the oxygen is indescribable. It’s like climbing stairs for hours with a plastic bag over your head, your heart beats so fast you can feel it racing very loudly in your head and you never really get your breath.

I got my first dose of mountain medicine on one of these hikes. I had gotten terrible blisters and one of the climbers who had just returned from Mt. Everest, Dr. Mark Schwab (the best climber on the mountain), gave me duct tape off of his climbing pole to wrap my foot, which I did.

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