Balloonist faces treacherous Andes ahead

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

ST. LOUIS --American adventurer Steve Fossett closed in on South America and its daunting mountains Tuesday during his week-old quest to become the first solo balloonist to circle the globe.

Less than 600 miles from Chile's coast and the potentially treacherous Andes mountains as of Tuesday afternoon, Fossett and his Bud Light Spirit of Freedom soared above the south Pacific at 16,000 feet.

Fossett, a week to the day since launching from western Australia, was cruising at a speed of 28 mph. He has traveled more than 8,200 miles on his sixth, wind-driven attempt to balloon nonstop around the world.

Fossett's five earlier solo attempts ended with crash-landings in spots such as the Coral Sea and a Brazilian cattle ranch.

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