Twelve of Greece’s best mountaineers recently called on President Costis Stephanopoulos to brief him on their attempt to become the first Greeks to reach the top of Mount Everest. The members of the national mission «Greece-Everest 2004» are aiming to plant the Athens Olympics flag on top of the 8,848 meters peak in May. «I have personally taken part in two missions (to Everest), in 1993 and 1996,» said Costas Tsivelekas. «In fact in 1996, we reached 8,100 meters but had to turn back because of bad weather.» The lack of funding is a considerable obstacle. «Just getting a permit to climb in the Himalayas costs 70,000 dollars. Our benefactor is the Greek-Canadian businessman Panayiotis Kotronaros. When a friend told him that mountaineers from Greece had never been to the top, he immediately offered to sponsor the attempt and appointed Greek-American mountaineer Pete Athans, who holds the world record for the number of climbs on Everest, as our technical adviser.» The national mission is to make a preparatory climb on Kilimanjaro in Africa from February 27 to March 6, and in mid-March to set off for the Himalayas. The team members will have to stay in camp for a while to acclimatize to the altitude before setting off for the peak, and will then split into two groups, which will climb from two different directions, one from the north (in Tibet) and one from the south (in Nepal). «If the weather holds, we will meet at the top in mid-May. If both groups succeed, it will be the first time this has been done. For us, it will be enough if just one of us gets to plant the flags of Greece and the Athens Olympics on the peak,» said Tsivelekas. Apart from Tsivelekas and Kotronaros, the mission, which is under the aegis of the Greek Federation of Mountaineering and Rock-Climbing, includes Costas Apostolopoulos, Giorgos Argyris, Giorgos Voutyropoulos, Petros Kapsomenakis, Spyros Soulis, Michalis Styllas, Yiannis Tilios and Pavlos Tsiantos.