Posted on Sun, May. 23, 2004

Charlotte native reaches top of world
McMillan, 47, part of Everest expedition

Special Correspondent

A 47-year-old Charlotte native who lives in San Rafael, Calif., joined an elite group of climbers May 16 when he reached the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

Tom McMillan, part of the "Everest: Friendship Beyond Borders Expedition," summited Everest at 7:55 a.m. with Nima Tashi Sherpa, 44, and Pem Dorjee Sherpa, 22, both of Nepal, according to McMillan's wife, Linda.

Linda McMillan said her husband called by satellite phone from the 29,035-foot summit.

"I heard some mumblings," said Linda McMillan, who spent 21/2 weeks at base camp before returning home. "I said, `Who is this? Tom, is that you?' He tried to call while he still had his oxygen mask on. He said, `We're here on the summit. I can't believe we made it.'

"He basically was jubilant," Linda McMillan said Friday from San Rafael. "I can't believe this went so well. They hit the weather window perfectly."

She said he had described the weather as sunny, clear and not windy. A few days later, high winds and snow swept the mountain.

At 8:15 a.m., team members Nawang Sherpa, 32, and Nima Gombu Sherpa, 35, both of Nepal, reached the top. Nawang Sherpa became the first person who wears a prosthetic leg (for his below-the-knee amputation) to climb Everest.

Tom McMillan is believed to be the first Charlotte native to reach the Top of the World.

He is the son of Dr. Thomas and Alice McMillan of Charlotte, grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Myers Park High in 1972. He got a degree in performing arts from the N.C. School of the Arts and a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Utah.

He's now a database developer for San Francisco-based AMB Property Corp. The company's CEO, Hamid Moghadam, was the lead sponsor of the expedition.

Dr. McMillan said his son, known in his youth as "Tim," began hiking and climbing at age 13. He has climbed Mount McKinley in Alaska, at 20,320 feet the highest peak in North America, and last summer he summited Mustagh Ata, a 24,758-foot-high mountain in China.

For Nawang Sherpa, climbing Everest was a lifelong dream McMillan helped him achieve.

Nawang Sherpa lost part of his left leg in a traffic accident and was fitted in 2001 with a prosthetic. He met McMillan during his 1998 attempt at Annapurna, a 26,545-foot mountain in Nepal. Nawang Sherpa acted as a guide for 15 trekkers who joined McMillan at Annapurna's base camp, including Linda McMillan.

When Moghadam and others agreed to help sponsor the expedition, McMillan invited Nawang Sherpa to join him.


For information on Mount Everest climbs, go to

2004 Charlotte Observer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.