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Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
Aug 232022
 
Going for 8000er Record: Kristin Harila all 14 in Six Months

A new trend in 8000-meter climbing is how many you can get in one trip and how fast. Norweigan Kristin Harila is on track to smash long-time records this year. Thus far, she has eleven of the fourteen, all with climbing Sherpas, Pasdawa Sherpa, and Dawa Ongju Sherpa, of 8K Expeditions. I had the opportunity to record this interview with her during a short respite back home in Norway.

The current record is 189 days between April 23 and October 29, 2019, by Nirmal Purja Pun Magar and is recognized by Guinness World Records. However, a study posted online notes it took Nirmal five years, four months, and 25 days to complete all 14, primarily due to their conclusion that he didn’t reach Manaslu’s true summit during his 2019 campaign and only did in the autumn of 2021. Kristin’s first summit of the project was Annapurna on April 28, 2022. She will need to finish by November 3, 2022, to get the speed record.

She is no stranger to mountaineering. In 2019, she became the fastest woman to climb Everest and Lhotse in a record 12 hours. The 36-year-old is from Vadso/Norway and is a former cross-country skier. Today, she claims her profession is as a mountaineer, runner, and skier.

Next up for the trio are Nepal’s Manaslu true summit, before trying Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. She prefers climbing both from the Tibet side, but as we know, the Chinese have closed Tibet for climbing due to COVID since 2000. They will have to get an exception to enter the country for their attempt. She tells me she will attempt Cho from Nepal if she cannot enter Tibet.

Aug 122022
 
K2 2022: No O's, Unsupported Summits on Broad Peak and K2 -  Interview with Andreas Frydensberg and Eric Gilbertson

K2 had a record year this 2022 summer. Most of the summits were by Sherpas or Pakistani climbers helping their paying clients, but a handful were the rare type: no supplemental oxygen, no Sherpa support, and no commercial team.

Danish climber Andreas Ritzau Frydensberg with American Eric Gilbertson summited Broad Peak on July 18th and K2 on July 28th. On his website, Country Highpoints, Eric describes their Broad Peak, and K2 climbs in detail. They climbed unsupported, using Pakastani Alpine Adventure Guides for base camp services. So they climbed with no on-mountain support – no Sherpas to set up tents, cook food, or break trail. They also didn’t use supplemental oxygen.

Before getting to their story, I admit that 2022 caused me to lose some hope in the sport I admire. Too many inexperienced climbers, too much talk of records, most important only to the individual seeking it, and teams with too many clients supported but too many Sherpas. It just felt out of control. I’m thankful we had a relatively small number of deaths, but as I learn more, I see many rescues and near misses, so this was a season of luck.

In looking at what Eric and Andreas did, they gave me hope. I am excited to see younger climbers demonstrate creativity, excellent judgment, and impressive results, all in good style. It gave me hope for our sport, and I’m proud of them and several others who climbed similarly. Now, onto the interview.

This relaxed-paced interview with Eric and Andreas only days after they returned home to Seattle and Denmark, respectively.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

Jul 232022
 
Video Interview Adventure Consultants Guy Cotter

If you follow mountaineering, Adventure Consultants is one of the names that evoke almost three decades of memories. Guy Cotter, who began running the company in the mid-1990s, has deftly led his team through years of climbs worldwide. But in 2010, COVID was too much, and Guy made the difficult decision to put AC into ‘hibernation.’ Now, in 2022, he is ready to resume operations, smaller, leaner, and with an increased focus on running high-quality expeditions with discerning clients.

In this interview, I talk with Guy about his decisions with AC over the past few years and where he wants to take the company. We also delve into this new world of climbers’ linking multiple 8000-meter peaks in a single season, the record crowds on K2, and the discussion in the mountaineering community around the validity of claiming summits, especially on the fourteen 8000-meter peaks.

Guy is uniquely qualified to discuss these topics. I hope you enjoy our chat.

May 312022
 
Video Interview Wilco Van Rooijen: No O's Kanchenjunga 2022 Tough Decisions

We sometimes hear about a climber who has to make a tough decision as we follow mountaineering each season. Usually, it involves weather moving in that might jeopardize the team’s safety or rescuing a teammate. Well, this spring, my long-time friend, Wilco van Rooijen, 55, faced a difficult decision, but it involved staying true to his style.

The Dutch mountaineer cheated death in 2008 on K2, but we both lost a dear friend, Ger McDonnell, that year. Wilco, who always climbs without supplemental oxygen or Sherpa support, had summited K2, Everest, plus many technical climbs in the Alps. He had a sold attempt in 2018 on Kanchenjunga, the 3rd highest mountain at 8,586 m (28,169 ft), with his best friend and climbing partner, Cas van de Gevel.

This 2022 spring, they returned to Kanch for another try in their style. They had perfect weather day after day and had acclimatized on Meru Peak before arriving at Kanch’s base camp. They made one attempt but were going too slow behind a large group, and it was getting late in the day, so they returned to base camp. It was then that their expedition began to experience problems. The operator they had paid to provide base camp logistics told them they only had three days left as they were going. Cas developed health problems. Soon Wilco found himself high on Kanch with a climber he didn’t know and a very young and inexperienced Sherpa. Wilco faced a decision that would test his character and test his commitment to the style head sworn to honor.

It’s a fascinating interview where we talk about our Broad Peak experience, Wilco and Ger on K2 in 2008, and Wilco and Cas this year on Kanch. I take the opportunity to ask Wiclo his views on the changes we are seeing in the world of mountaineering of excessive use of oxygen, inexperienced clients with unqualified guides, helicopters, and more.

Climb On!

Alan

Memories are Everything

May 272022
 
Video Interview Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow, on his Makalu Record Ski Descent

The world’s fifth-highest at 27,765 feet (8,463 meters), Makalu saw multiple successes this season. Still, on Monday, May 9, 2022, Adrian Ballinger, co-founder of Alpenglow, texted me, “I summited today with Dorji Sonam and Pasang Sona (Alpenglow Sherpa). We fixed to the summit from where rope fixing ended by French couloir. And….I skied Makalu!!!!!! I just got back to ABC. First on top for the season. Alpenglow pride”

He walks through the climb, discussing how the Sherpas fixed the summit ropes, poor weather at times, or narrow windows of opportunity. I asked him to discuss his “ski technique” for those listeners who are avid skiers. As he was making his way down 8,000 feet of snow and ice, plus a rock gulley or two, he passed climbers going up—what fun.

Finally, we wrap up with a short discussion about how high-altitude mountaineering is changing, especially on those ‘other’ 8000ers like Kanchnugua, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, and Annapurna.

Climb On!

Alan

Memories are Everything

Apr 082022
 
Interview with Jennifer Drummond - First Woman for the 2nd Seven Summits

Jenn Drummond doesn’t let much stop her from achieving her goals. Having all of her climbing gear not show up for a climb was a mere inconvenience for this 41-year-old mother of seven children. Jenn is on a mission to be the first female climber to summit the so-called Second Seven Summits. We are all familiar with the first seven, and around 500 people have accomplished that goal. Still, only a handful have completed the 2nd, and no females.

I met Jenn via my Summit Coach consulting business almost two years ago. She called me to discuss climbing Ama Dablam, which she did a few months later. Jenn is unique. An accomplished businesswoman, now retired, mother of seven, ranging in age from nine to 15, including twin daughters. She is an avid skier, triathlete, and played college soccer. 

We had a wide-ranging conversation about how the idea was born, her children, and how she manages the complexities of being away so often, and of course, some of the climbs got started.

Everest 2022: Interview with Garrett Madison from Namche Bazaar

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Apr 072022
 
Everest 2022: Interview with Garrett Madison from Namche Bazaar

The #Everest2022 season is taking shape as teams continue to receive climbing permits and others are well on their way to Everest Base Camp. The first 8000er summits are expected soon.

Big Picture

There has been an expected surge in new permits for Everest, now at 200 including 46 female climbers. The United States represents the largest country on Everest this year with 49 climbers, a spot recently ceded to India and China which only have 15 and 9 climbers respectively. The UK comes in at 25 with Canada at 11 and Australia at 10 thus far. Russia has 14 climbers on Everest this season.

Feb 252022
 
Video Interview with Kuntal Joisher - 100% Vegan Mountain Climber

Every person who climbs Everest is unique. So, of course, that person feels special, but some stand out. Take Kuntal Joisher, for example. He has summited Everest from the Tibet and Nepal sides, plus Lhotse, and completed many other amazing adventures like the Northern Icecap in Chile. But what makes Kuntal stand out is his dedication to a vegan lifestyle that goes all the way to shunning any item that uses animal products – including using a full synthetic climbing suit. We discuss how he got to this point, his outstanding photography skills, and what it’s like being an ambassador for “Save the Ducks.” We also discuss his next climbing project his passion for bodybuilding and photography. Finally, we share a common family situation with my mom, Ida, and his father, both dying from forms of Dementia, Lewy Body syndrome, and Alzheimer’s.

Feb 092022
 
Everest 2022: Video Interview with Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow

With the Everest 2022 season just around the corner, it appears the Tibet side will be closed and continued uncertainty about the wisdom of climbing on the Nepal side. There are questions as to whether operators should run their programs at all. Many are moving forward but a few are not. I discuss the situation with Adrian Ballinger, founder of Alpenglow Expeditions who has canceled his expedition from the Tibet side this spring. We also talk about his plans for a no O’s, ski descent on Makalu.

Jun 162021
 
Everest 2021: Video Interview with Art Muir - Oldest American Summiter

Art Muir at age 75 became the oldest American to summit Mt. Everest on May 12, 2021, with Maddison Mountaineering. He surpassed Bill Burke who held the American Everest age record for 11 years. Burke summited at age 67 on the Nepal side and again from the Tibet side in 2014 at 72. Japanese mountaineer Yoichiro Miura is the oldest person to summit in 2013 at age 80.

I spoke with Art about his motivation, how his family felt about his plans, his 2019 attempt, prior climbing experience then we got into his training, diet, and experience on the climb. We wrapped up with Art’s thoughts on seniors climbing and staying active.