ExWeb has published their third interview, from an expert, regarding the recent controversy over who has, and hasn’t free climbed the Second Step of Everest. This time they spoke with climber and historian Jochen Hemmleb, essentially asking him the same questions they asked John Harlin and Miss Hawley.
Hemmleb’s comments are fairly straightforward and to the point. He does give credit to both Oscar Cadiach and Theo Fritsche for successfully free climbing the Second Step, and says that both of the climbs are documented. In Cadiach’s case, it’s even been written up in a few books. Fritsche’s climb is documented on the web, but Hemmleb notes that Theo is very understated when it comes to his accomplishments and doesn’t go out of his way to promote himself.
The article also gets into semantics on what is considered a “free climb” with ExWeb wanting to rule out any type of assistance, including Sherpas and oxygen, but Hemmleb and Harlin both agreed that the use of Sherpas and O2 didn’t rule out a free climb of any pitch.
As for that Chinese team that was credited by Miss Hawley with a free climb of the Second Step, Hemmleb says they didn’t free climb it at all. The team used pitons and a shoulder stand on their way to the top, both of which would rule out a true “free climb”
So, where does that leave us on the subject? At this point we have varying reports on who has actually free climbed the Step. Miss Hawley credits the Chinese team and now Conrad Anker’s Altitude Everest Team. Hemmleb rules out the Chinese, and I tend to believe him on this one, as even John Harlin said he’d be shocked if the Chinese did a true free climb of the Second Step, as they weren’t free climbing in China at the time. Hemmleb gives credit to Cadiach and Fritsche for their climbs, saying that their is evidence to suggest they both accomplished the feat, despite Shambu telling Miss Hawley that Cadiach’s team used the ladder. Harlin has pretty much stayed above the fray of speculation, commenting only on what the AAJ’s records show.
One thing is for certain, it seems that the Altitude Everest team was not the first to complete the free climb. We’re likely to see some clarification on this when the team returns to Kathmandu next week. Knowing what I do about Conrad Anker and Leo Houlding, I’m guessing they don’t care one way or another, they’re just happy to have achieved their goal. This press release that came out touting their accomplishment was likely the work of a marketing hack anyway. But it sure has been fun to read, speculate, and think about the various aspects of these climbs over the past week.
I’m still looking forward to the documentary the team made on the way up, and hearing about the climb directly from Conrad and Leo themselves.
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