Summit Stories

Meet World Triathlete Rob Lea

Park City native summits Everest, swims The English Channel, and bikes cross country—all within a year.

By Tom Kelly December 11, 2019 Published in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Park City Magazine

Two days before summiting Mt. Everest, Rob Lea and Caroline Gleich spent an extra night at Camp 2, situated at 25,000 feet above sea level, in order to wait out the crowds of climbers.

Park City native Rob Lea tinkered with his bike, preparing for his ride across America. “I want to enjoy this,” he says laughing.

Most wouldn’t use “enjoyable” to describe 30 days in the saddle from Seattle to New York. But after climbing Everest and swimming the English Channel (plus a summer wedding), hopping on a bike for a month for a 3,608-mile ride seemed relaxing.

Growing up, Lea spent a lot of family time outdoors. His scout leader father, Jim, took him on his first expedition, summiting Grand Teton at age 15.

“We grew up camping in the Uintas or backpacking in Yellowstone,” says Lea. “Being outdoors was our way of life.”

In high school, he combined favorite sports of swimming, biking, and running, turning them into triathlons. But a series of injuries in recent years made it difficult to run. So, Lea conceived a unique “Ultimate World Triathlon.” His relationship with now-wife Caroline Gleich, a noted skier and mountaineer, opened his eyes to gender inequality, turning his adventure into a cause: #TriForEquality.

Lea and his fiancée were strategic in their approach to Everest, summiting from the less-traveled Tibet side on May 24.

He then had just six weeks to prepare for the swim. His biggest training challenge? Gaining weight! Pizza, beer, and white Russians (two quarts of cream a week) helped build body fat for the 21-mile swim. On July 9, he jumped in the water and swam from Dover, England, to Cap Gris-Nez, France, while Gleich shouted out encouraging posts from friends back home for 12 hours. No one had ever climbed Everest, swum the Channel, and biked across the United States in a single year.

One could ask, why?

“I did this for myself more than anything else,” he says. “It’s all the things I’ve wanted to do. But if I can change the attitude of just a few men towards women, well, I would consider that a success.”

Filed under
Show Comments