BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WASHINGTON
One of the world's foremost high-altitude mountaineers, Pete Athans’ name has been synonymous with the exploration of Mt. Everest for more than three decades. He’s led numerous expeditions on the world’s highest mountain and has summited a record-setting seven times while supporting Sherpa culture, helping to bring health care, literacy and professional guide training throughout Nepal.
An explorer and wanderer from an early age, relentless in pursuit and discovery, Peter left kindergarten one day and walked six miles home to escape an irascible teacher. He’s been skipping out on class ever since. His early exploits rock climbing in the parks of the New York boroughs and on freeway cliffs near his home in New York sometimes ended in the emergency room. He pored over his mother’s copy of “The Ascent of Everest”, imagining himself there, fascinated not by the Western explorers, but the Sherpa, who supported the early exploration of Everest. In search of kindred souls and bigger mountains, he moved west and started mountaineering and ice climbing in earnest. He graduated from the Andes of South America and the Alaska Range to the Himalaya, where he and his teammates successfully pioneered a new route on Annapurna South Peak. He reached the summit of Everest in 1990.
Peter’s climbing expertise may even be overshadowed by his ability to guide and successfully assist others in reaching summits. An accomplished photographer and cinematographer, Peter has created film projects with PBS and National Geographic Television and Film and wrote a book: “Tales from the Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest with Pete Athans”. For their rescue efforts on Mt. Everest in 1996, Peter and his partner Todd Burleson were awarded the American Alpine Club’s David J. Sowles Award for unparalleled bravery and selflessness in a rescue situation.
When he’s not at Everest Base camp or guiding on his home peak of Mount Rainier, Peter lives a simple life surrounded by old-growth forest on an island near Seattle. He tends to chickens, bees, his dog, cat and his family. The Buddhist who is fluent in Nepali language often lights incense in the morning, and offers water in a bronze kettle at a small shrine dedicated to making the world a better place. He’s a strong advocate of Sherpa culture and has documented their talents in books, periodicals, films and presentations. As the Director of the Khumbu Climbing Center, he works to improve the competence, safety and professionalism of all Nepalese high-altitude climbers. He’s also a board member of the Himalayan Cataract Project, which treats cataract patients in Nepal. Pete and his family helped establish the “Magic Yeti Library” project to support bilingual libraries in six villages of the Everest region and in the restricted Kingdom of Upper Mustang in Northwestern Nepal. The Nepalese government awarded him “Good Will Ambassador” status for his post-earthquake efforts and for his ongoing archaeological work in Mustang where he has discovered some of the oldest human artifacts and human remains in the Himalaya.
- 16 expeditions in 18 years to the Mt. Everest massif; seven summits of the peak
- South East Spur of Mt. Hunter, Alaska Range
- East Ridge, Manda South Peak, Garwhal Himalaya, India
- South Ridge, Annapurna South, Nepal Himalaya
- Ama Dablam, West Ridge 4 times, Nepal Himalaya
- Nuptse, North Ridge, Nepal Himalaya
- Pumori, East and North ridges, Nepal Himalaya
- Cho Oyu, West Ridge and Face, Central Himalaya, Tibet
- Kangkuru, West Ridge, Damodar Himalaya, first ascent, Mustang region
- Alpine Style ascent of Cho Oyu, Nepal