More Second Step Nonsense

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.

Kraig Becker

6 thoughts on “More Second Step Nonsense”

  1. Hey, I free-climbed the Second Step, too!!!! Have a silly supersition about ladders in general. No big deal. ; )

    LOL! Who’s next?!

    I think you’re right about an overzealous marketing person putting out an erroneous release on behalf of the Altitude Everest expedition. They probably will stand by their use of the qualifier “first confirmed free climb”. Conrad certainly didn’t claim any ‘first’ in his dispatch. But the team should set the record straight and go ahead and issue a new release retracting their mistaken info.

    Hard to take too seriously much of the stuff published out there these days even on the ‘leading climbing website’ which doesn’t seem to relate to climbers whose names haven’t appeared on the summit list of 8,000m peaks. Guess all the other 8’s stuff that climbers like Leo and Kevin Thaw pull off just don’t count.

    Pretty sure no one’s losing any sleep over it though, especially Anker, Houlding, Brice, Thaw, etc.

    Photo from Kevin’s site of Leo on de l ‘S summit – Aguja de l ‘S on the Fitz Roy Massif Patagonia – other great trip photos and report there, too.

    Kev & Leo & Cedar Wright pioneered the route The Thaw’s Not Houlding Wright, V 5.10

  2. LOL! You should issue a press release! 🙂

    The ExWeb editorial takes Conrad Anker to ask as if he wrote the press release himself while he was at Camp 4 or something.

    And you’re right about them not seeming to recognize the fact that you don’t have to top out on 8000m peaks to be a great climber. Such a narrow minded, short sighted view of things.

  3. Not sure why they call Anker’s dispatch “confused”. There’s nothing confusing in it.

    It is confusing why they keep looking for ways to attack Brice or anything he is involved in. Kinda wonder what’s really going on there?

    Funny thing is how they righteously weigh in on “Where is Mallory’s legacy?”, and use it to raise the spectre of David Sharp again. They could not have cared less about the Mallory story and his legacy until others submitted work on the subject. Yet, they know that Mallory is turning in his grave. Puh-lease.

  4. Yep! They’ve had an axe to grind with Brice for awhile now, and never miss a chance to take a shot at him. The seem to have a personal crusade on this one, that’s for sure.

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