Not content with successfully climbing the corporate ladder in Hong Kong, Rob Hart is spending this month and next attempting to climb the world's highest peak - Mount Everest - as part of his Seven Summits goal of climbing the highest mountain on each continent. Hart, 33, is taking a two-month leave from his position as an executive director with Morgan Stanley. He flew to Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday and if all goes well he should be on the 8,850-metre summit of Mt Everest towards the end of May. It can take up to nine weeks due to the weather and the time required to adapt to the high altitude at each stage of the climb. When he arrived in Hong Kong from South Africa in February, 1996, Hart was armed with a finance degree, a lot of determination and not much experience. He ended up being a cook at The Jump for three months before joining Morgan Stanley, one of the world's largest investment banks, and Hart's career began to take off. Suddenly, it was the end of 2003 and something was troubling him. 'I looked back on the year and asked myself what I had accomplished,' he said. Nothing specific came to mind. It was during this period of reflection that he settled on climbing the Seven Summits in order to have an annual highlight to remember. So far, he has climbed Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Tanzania and Aconcagua in Argentina, which is 6,962m and the highest peak outside of the Himalayas. 'So much of your life you can't remember, but I can remember every day spent climbing on Aconcagua,' he said of his December adventure. In February last year, he climbed Kilimanjaro with his father. Hart has also been to the top of Mont Blanc in France with his wife, Anna. They were married in October. To celebrate his birthday last weekend, the Harts went to Bali. They climbed volcanoes to help him prepare for the challenge ahead. Anna is concerned but remains supportive of his mountaineering, despite having to listen to him constantly talk about the trip over the past few months. The least of her beefs is that he will conveniently miss the day they move into a new flat. Hart's parents also know about his Seven Summits goal, which perhaps all started when he climbed to the top of a 700m granite monolith called Paarl Rock in Cape Town at the age of five. Since then he's been running and climbing all over the world. 'My mum told me to be careful. Dad said don't be stupid,' he said. His mother-in-law also wished him good luck when he was in Boston recently on business. Even his boss at Morgan Stanley agreed to give him the time off - unpaid, of course. If Hart's first attempt at Everest is successful, that will leave Denali/Mount McKinley in Alaska (6,194m), Vinson Massif in Antarctica (4,897m), Elbrus in Russia (5,633m) and Carstensz Pyramid in Irian Jaya, Indonesia (4,884m). He plans to climb one per year. However, success on Everest is never guaranteed. Many people have got to within a few hundred metres of the summit only to be forced to turn around by the weather. The first Hong Kong mountaineer to accomplish the Seven Summits, Chung Kin-man, made it to the top of Everest in 2003 on his fifth attempt. Climbing partner Cham Yick-lai was the first Hong Kong-Chinese to reach the summit when he did it in 1992, but Chung came up short that year due to a storm. Hundreds of people have died on the mountain, either trying to reach the summit or not returning on their way back down to base camp. Fitness obviously plays a role, but there are many other factors. Good weather is the main one. Logistics and preparation are also important. Hart has chosen to join an expedition organised by Adventure Consultants of New Zealand, which is run by accomplished mountaineer Guy Cotter. The company has a solid reputation for getting people to the top, and back. This year the expedition will have seven climbers, including one who is blind. The cost to join the Everest expedition is US$55,000 and that basically covers everything upon arrival in Nepal. Fitness shouldn't be a problem either. Hart is in fantastic shape and is a regular participant in several types of adventure races. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to his attempt will be to take it slow at all times to conserve energy and remain with the other six climbers in his expedition. That was the main point of a discussion Hart had recently with Keith Kerr, the chairman of Swire Properties and an avid mountaineer who first climbed Everest in 1992. 'The art of getting there is to play it cool,' Kerr said. He also recommended taking books, a music player and a journal to write in. 'Do not run on Everest,' he said. 'Take it nice and slow. I've seen people burn themselves out because they hurry. Relax, relax, relax ... you are part of a system on Everest.' Another good piece of advice from Kerr was to always be the last person into each camp on the way up. 'That way, the water is hot and the soup is on. It's all about saving it to get to the top,' Kerr said. And with those words of advice, Hart is off to face one of the biggest challenges known to man. If you are interested in learning how to climb, contact Chung Kin-man's HK Mountaineering Training Centre in Mongkok on 2770-6746. To follow Rob Hart's progress online, visit www.adventureconsultants.co.nz and click on Expedition News.