Throughout this past week I’ve closely followed ExWeb’s efforts to determine who first free climbed the Second Step on Everest’s North Side after the Altitude Everest Team laid claim to that honor last week. ExWeb has been following up on the subject all week contacting such climbing historians as Miss Elizabeth Hawley and Jochen Hemmleb in their dogged attempt to get to the bottom of this story.
Yesterday a couple of new articles were posted on the subject that just help to illustrate how silly the whole thing has become. First we have word that Nickolay Totmjanin also claims to have free climbed the Second Step to avoid the crowds. Nickolay was on Everest in the Spring of 2003 and was going up without oxygen. He feared that if he waited too long for the traffic jams to unsnarl, he would get frostbite, so he free climbed the step so he could keep moving. This story goes to show that there may be a number of climbers who have accomplished the feat and just didn’t bother to trumpet their success, something that is not uncommon in the climbing community.
The other article of note is this editorial by ExWeb that essentially takes Conrad Anker, and his team to task, for their claims as being the first to free climb the Step. In the press release, Anker and climbing partner Leo Houlding were called “two of the world’s leading climbers”, something that seems to have irritated the gang over at ExWeb since Altitude Everest topped out. It seems that they define a climber’s ability by how many 8000m peaks they’ve summitted, and have been using that as criteria for analyzing the claims of Leo and Conrad being “leading climbers”.
While I’ve had fun this week reading these reports and offering my own thoughts on the subject, I never really took it that seriously. As I noted several days ago, I chalked it all up to some marketing hack for the Altitude Everest team being a bit over zealous in their PR spin. I also said that there is a difference between climbing and mountaineering, and it’s pretty tough to not recognize that Leo Houlding is amongst the best climbers in the World. Not every climber goes up 8000m peaks, and using that as your way of judging who is and isn’t a good climber is being a bit narrow minded. On top of all that, the editorial by ExWeb is a bit insulting and condescending to Conrad Anker, who is a respected climber, and by all accounts a respectable guy. It seems to me that the gang over at ExWeb are taking things just a little too seriously here, and of course they never miss an opportunity to take a shot at Russel Brice, which they also do in an off-handed way in this article.
So, what was a bit of a fun mystery to discuss and debate back and fourth, and now turned into an even bigger fiasco. We have other climbers coming forward to say they’ve accomplished the free climb of the Second Step and a leading climbing website taking unnecessary shots at the Altitude Everest Team. I guess now that the Everest climbing season is over, there just isn’t enough other stuff to talk about.
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