"I ran into a friend of mine who raised a ton of money for charity climbing the seven summits,” Layfield said in a phone interview Monday. "I wanted to raise money for my at-risk kids that I work with in Bermuda and I thought this was a great way to try and do it."
WWE jumped at the opportunity to partner up with Layfield in his project and decided to help in a big way.
"I reached out to [WWE chairman and CEO] Vince McMahon and [executive vice president, television production] Kevin Dunn and I asked them if they wanted to partner with me on this. They stepped up in a huge way as far as they're going to promote this on their TV properties, they're going to promote this through social media.”
WWE will also provide Layfield with state-of-the-art tools that will allow him to take videos while climbing and send them back to WWE and his social-media platforms in real time.
“It's really a wonderful thing how they're promoting this across all of their platforms so that hopefully we can raise a lot of money. Because of them, 100 percent of the money [raised by the project] is going to go directly to the kids."
Layfield lands in Russia today to scale Mount Elbrus (18,510 ft), the tallest mountain in Europe. Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft), in Tanzania, Africa, comes second. In December of this year, Mount Aconcagua (22,831 ft) in Argentina will be conquered. One month later in January 2013, Layfield will travel to Antarctica to climb Mount Vinson Massif (16,050 ft). In the summer of 2013, Layfield packs for Alaska to meet Mount McKinley (20,327 ft). That fall, he will find himself in Indonesia to face Oceania's tallest peak on Mount Carstensz (16,024 ft). Finally, in 2014, Layfield has booked his ascent on the world's tallest mountain, which borders on China and Nepal – Mount Everest (29,029 ft).
Layfield's family and friends have been supportive of the endeavour, but certainly there are concerns.
“They are tentative as it pertains to the safety [of the project]. Fifteen to 30 people die on Mount Elbrus a year. They also wonder if I can do it physically, and I wonder that, too. I don't know if I can or not. I will certainly be on all these mountains and I will certainly try to climb them all.”
Only 347 individuals have successfully climbed the seven summits.
To train for these climbs, Layfield climbed flights of stairs in a tall building in New York City ... for hours upon end. He says it's equal parts mental and physical preparation, particularly training the mind to be “on auto pilot” and being able to focus for hours. In terms of the physical aspect, Layfield will endure extreme conditions, most notably a lack of oxygen at high altitude – acclimatization climbs will be required at each mountain.
As part of his cargo for each trip, Layfield will be bringing a WWE flag, which he will plant at the summit of each mountain.
For more information: http://www.beyondrugbybermuda.com/7-summits.html
A full audio interview with John Bradshaw Layfield can be found here: http://radio.thescore.com/episodes/jbl-interview-jun-12-2012