Mountaineer and The North Face athlete Conrad Anker with Everest highlighted by the sun in the distance on the left. (Photo: Cory Richards) Continuing his legacy of renowned ascents, famed mountaineer and The North Face athlete Conrad Anker is aiming once again for the top of the world as he leads a team of climbers setting out to reach the summit of Mount Everest this spring. Steeped with a history unlike any other, Everest has been perhaps the most sought-after summit for climbers in the world. Anker, along with fellow The North Face athlete and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, will revisit Everest’s storied past as they attempt to repeat the historic climb of the 1963 National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition (AMEE) almost 50 years after the first American ascent to the summit via the West Ridge. Anker and Richards will climb Everest’s West Ridge, a route seldom visited. Their alpine-style climb will be documented by Richards for a feature in National Geographic magazine to be published in early 2013 and covered in real time on the magazine’s May issue iPad app starting April 16. It can also be followed online at the partners’ websites and on Twitter via #oneverest. Anker and Richards’ efforts will be complemented by a second team of climbers from The North Face global athlete team, including Kris Erickson, Hilaree O’Neill, Emily Harrington and Sam Elias. This team will attempt the summit simultaneously on the Southeast Ridge of the mountain. They will focus on mentorship within the climbing and mountaineering communities. Erickson and O’Neill, who have climbed some of the world’s most challenging mountains, will provide insight and education to the younger Elias and Harrington, who have traditionally been focused on rock and ice climbing. The scientific portion of the expedition involves geologists from Montana State University on the Southeast Ridge team and medical specialists from Mayo Clinic at Base Camp. On the Southeast Ridge team will be Montana State University professor and structural geologist, Dr. David Lageson. He will focus on research and education in partnership with Philip Henderson of the National Outdoor Leadership School and Travis Corthouts, a geology graduate student who will conduct research from Everest Base Camp. Also part of the Southeast Ridge team will be National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins. Some members of this team will contribute to an online science curriculum developed for fifth graders by Montana State University. “The West Ridge of Everest is a demanding and challenging route. Sharing the science of Mount Everest is a goal of our team, and combining our two objectives in one expedition is a fitting tribute to the 1963 AMEE team,” Anker said. “Everest remains a beacon of exploration. The ability to share the experience of Mount Everest with school children while conducting science is the foundation of our expedition.” Continuing the scientific theme, at Base Camp a team of five Mayo Clinic researchers will study climbers from both teams, recording real-time data for a comprehensive look at the impacts of high altitude on human physiology. The expedition is sponsored by National Geographic and The North Face, with support from Montana State University. “National Geographic is thrilled to support this exciting project, which takes a historic achievement we funded — the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition — and uses it to frame a modern-day attempt at the summit. New technology allows us to do something that was impossible in 1963 — bring National Geographic magazine readers along in real time, with video, photographs and blogs from the expedition in the magazine’s May issue app for iPad,” said Rebecca Martin, director of National Geographic’s Expeditions Council. “Supporting this expedition is particularly meaningful to us because Conrad and the teams seek to not only replicate what has to date been a singular achievement but also to expand scientific understanding of Everest and instill a deeper appreciation of the Himalayas through educational outreach.” “At The North Face, we are excited to work in partnership with National Geographic on this momentous expedition. We are proud to see our athletes Conrad, Cory, Kris, Hilaree, Sam, and Emily embarking on a journey that truly exhibits the evolution of high-altitude mountaineering and honors its rich past,” said Todd Spaletto, The North Face president. "We see this expedition as a tremendous step inspiring outdoor exploration in communities around the world.” Mountaineer Conrad Anker (left) with teammate and National Geographic photographer Cory Richards join forces to climb the West Ridge of Mount Everest in the spring of 2012. (Karine Aigner/National Geographic)
Conrad Anker’s specialty, simply put, is climbing the most technically challenging terrain in the world. This quest has taken him from the mountains of Alaska and Antarctica to the big walls of Patagonia and Baffin Island and the massive peaks of the Himalaya.
Conrad’s Antarctic experience spans a decade, with first ascents in three regions. In 1997, Conrad teamed up with Alex Lowe and Jon Krakauer to climb Rakekniven, a 2,500-foot wall in Queen Maud Land. In the Sentinel Range, Conrad climbed the Vinson Massif via three new routes. His climbs in Pakistan’s Karakoram include the west face of Latok II along the “Tsering Mosong” route (which begins at the same height as the summit of Denali) where he climbed 26 pitches on a vertical cliff and then topped out at 23,342 feet.
In 1998, Conrad and Peter Croft made a first ascent of Spansar Peak via a 7,000-foot ridge in one day. In Patagonia, he climbed the three towers of the Cerro Torre Massif. On Yosemite’s El Capitan he joined Steve Gerberding and Kevin Thaw to establish “Continental Drift,” a steep “nail-up” on the right side. And in Zion National Park, Mugs Stump and Conrad first climbed the intimidating “Streaked Wall”.
In May of 1999, as a member of the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition, Conrad discovered the body of George Mallory, the preeminent Everest explorer of the 1920s. The disappearance of Mallory and Sandy Irvine on their summit bid in June 1924 is one of climbing’s great mysteries, and Conrad’s discovery and analysis of the find has shed new light on the pioneering climbs of the early expeditions.
In October 2011, Conrad, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk summited one of the last great unclimbed features of the Himalayas by topping out on the Shark’s Fin route on the northwest face of 20,700-foot Meru in the Garhwal Himalaya. In the game of high-altitude, big-wall mountaineering, the previously unclimbed route represents one of the world’s ultimate mountaineering tests, with the lower third a classic alpine snow-and-ice route, the middle a mix of ice and rock, and the final section an extremely difficult, overhanging headwall. The Shark’s Fin has drawn many of the world’s top alpinists over the past 30 years, none of them able to finish the route.
Conrad graduated from the University of Utah and lives in Bozeman, Montana, with his wife and three sons. Anker serves on the board of the Conservation Alliance, the Rowell Fund for Tibet and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. “My involvement with these organizations is intrinsically rewarding,” Conrad says “and it’s among the most important work I do. It feels good to be able to give back to our community of humans and to the natural world.”
Adventure: The open road.
Favorite The North Face Product: Prism Optimus Down Jacket
Proudest Moment: Seeing the Khumbu Climbing School take off
Cause(s): Conservation, alliance, global giving, and the environment in general.
Spouse/Partner’s Name: Jennifer Leigh Lowe Anker
Children’s Name(s) Max, Sam, and Isaac
Pet’s Name/Type: Dogs Happy and Leroy
Best Friend(s) Name(s): Jimmy Chin and Peter Croft
Favorite Cook and Dish: My wife - Apple Pie
Favorite Movie: Any James Bond
Favorite Snack: Organic cashews
Favorite Book: The New York Times Book of Knowledge
Favorite Magazine: Seed
Favorite Moment In History: When George Mallory’s body was found, opening up keys to the past, and Hermann’ Buhl’s ascent of Nanga Parbat
Most Recent Epic: Meru
Most Humbling Moment: Losing Alex Lowe. I was very sad.
Ambition: Be a teacher
Three Things People Should Know About Me
Inspiration Within the Sport: Friendship, Challenge, Risk, Teamwork, Wilderness, Excitement.
Dream Vacation: Morocco
Three Things I Always Pack: Knife, Lip Balm, Lighter
Web Site: www.conradanker.com
- Ak Su, Russian Tower, Russian Shield, VI 5.10 A3 7/95 nr
- Karakoram, W Face Latok II, 7,108 m. VII 5.10 A3 7/97 nr s
- Karakoram, Spansar Peak, 5,850 m., VI 5.11 7/98 fa
- Khumbu, Ama Dablam winter 90, Lobuche solo, Chomolungma, Tibet, 8,850 m. 5/99
- Kishtwar, E Face, Kalidaha Spire, 6,000 m., VI 5.10 A2 9/88 fa
- Tien Shan, Khan Tengri, 6,995 m., Invitation Speed Climbing Competition 9/93
- Gurney Peak, SE Face, Kichatna Spires, VI 5.10 A3 5/87 nr
- NW Face, Mt. Hunter 7/89 nr
- Rakekniven, Snow Petrel Wall, Queen Maud Land, VI 5.10 A3 1/97 fa
- Vinson Massif, Sentinel Mountains, 4,897 m. South Face nr 12/92, Ski Descent West Face (2,000 m. at 45), West Ridge 1/99 nr, East Face nr 01/01
- Craddock, Sentinel Mountains, 4,659 m. 12/92 fa
- Tyree, Sentinel Mountains, 4765 m 12/97
Baffin Island, Canada: Stump Spire, Sam Ford Fiord, IV 5.11 7/92 fa
Patagonia: Badlands, Torre Egger VI 5.10 A3 12/94 nr
Yosemite: Continental Drift, El Capitan, VI 5.10 A4 97 nr
Zion, Utah: Stump/Anker Route, Streaked Wall, VI 5.11 A4 4/90 fa
- Gripped magazine: Baffin adventures with Tom Valis, 2004
- Outdoor Life Network: “Global Extremes Everest Challenge,” 2003
- National Geographic Television: “Deadly Fashion,” 2003
- National Geographic magazine: “Tibet Trek,” 2003
- NOVA: “Mountain of Ice,” 2002
- Outdoor Life Network: “To the Edge,” 2000
- NOVA: “The Shackleton Story,” IMAX film, 2000
- NBC Expedition Series: “Shishapangma,” 1999
- BBC, NOVA, ZDF: “Lost on Everest,” 1999
- National Geographic Television: “Queen Maud Land,” 1997
- Cliffhanger Productions: “On Ice” 1995
- The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory, by Dave Roberts (book)