New York Times Profiles Conrad Anker

anker small
I came across this article from the New York Times while reading The Adventurist. It’s a short, but interesting piece on Conrad Anker and his climbing background.

As many of you know, Anker lost his best friend, Alex Lowe, while climbing on Shisha Pangma back in 1990, and would later fall in love with, and marry, Alex’s wife Jennifer as the two worked through the grieving process together. Anker has become a father figure to Alex and Jennifer’s three boys, and even admits to climbing less dangerous routes since they formed a family.

The article also discusses Anker’s obsession with Mallory and his recent return to Everest to make a documentary film about Mallory’s climb. That was the Altitude Everest Expedition from this past Spring in which Anker and partner Leo Houlding, climbed much of Everest in gear that was similar to that worn by Mallory and Irvine back in 1924. The two later free climbed the Second Step, in modern gear, setting off a whole round of discussion as to who was first to accomplish that feat, and could Mallory and Irvine have done the same thing.

For the most part, the profile is pretty straight forward, and a by the numbers affair. Decent reading for anyone who isn’t already familiar with Anker’s story. But there are a couple of quotes that have made the rounds in the climbing community in which Anker says that “Everest pays” and that “I (Anker) can make money on Everest. I’ll be brutally honest.” Even the title of the article, “Seeing Everest as the Tallest A.T.M. in the World” hints at the money to be made on the Everest.

However, in my opinion, these are just the salacious bits of the article, which really doesn’t go into the business that had grown up around the tallest mountain on Earth. It should come as no surprise that Anker says he can make money on Everest, as the appetite for all things Everest has grown dramatically with the general public since 1996 and the release of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. It’s not like Anker is the only person to recognize the money making abilities for projects on Everest, and one only needs to look at the rise in commercial climbs over the past 15 years to see that.

I’d even venture to guess that David Breashears, a mountaineer and highly respected filmmaker, would freely admit to the fact that he can easily make money on Everest. Breashears was on the mountain back in 1996 making an IMAX documentary. That documentary went on to be the highest grossing IMAX film ever. He has also returned to Everest for other projects, no doubt for the fact that those projects would have commercial appeal.

Many of these climbers do the “day jobs” so they can make money to work on their real passion projects. Everest pays the bills, and allows them to go off climbing on a mountain that most of us have never heard of. So to hear Anker say that “Everest pays” is no great surprise, and I take it for face value. Perhaps he was a bit more blunt about it than what we’d like to hear, but then again, the simple phrase can also be taken totally out of context. For those of us who follow the climbing scene though, he’s just saying something we already knew, and something that isn’t likely to change anytime in the near future.

Just my thoughts…

Kraig Becker

7 thoughts on “New York Times Profiles Conrad Anker”

  1. I totally agree. Everest can be the means to and end for many professional climbers. Many of them aren’t taken seriously until they put that notch in their belt. Then they can market themselves in a way that gets them to the peaks they are really interested in.

    It seems to me that there are much more exciting mountaineering challenges than Everest. Frankly, if I was given the opportunity to climb any mountain in the world, without financial or time constraints… Everest would not be my choice.

  2. I agree with you Wade. Everest is just so blown up in the mind of the public, and there seems to be an almost insatiable demand for information/stores about it, that it’s become an industry of it’s own.

    Given the choice, I’d select something less crowded and more secluded to climb as well.

  3. This angle has been blown out of proportion in a “Perez Hilton” kind of way. It’s a shame the way this has been spun.

    What responsible human being supporting a family of five wouldn’t jump at the chance to make some extra cash by getting involved in something they know a little something about?

  4. Exactly. I mean, Ed Viesturs was in “Vertical Limit” of all things. A bad movie! But in a comment section on that film, a reader said that Ed once told him that his time in that film helped fund some great climbs! 🙂

  5. Nice Post. Funny you should mention Mr. Viesturs..I was just talking about him tonight with someone else. Always forget the Verticle Limit. I hope “anonymous” wasn’t talking about my article. Even though Perez Hilton has earned money for what he does, as well.

    Everyone has their own opinion.

  6. Hey Jason,

    I don’t think he was referring to you. I wouldn’t compare your post/site to Perez Hilton. Your post was thought provoking not sensationalist.

    Viesturs is an interesting guy, and not someone that I would ever characterize as “selling out”, But then again, Vertical Limit was pretty bad. 😉 Still if it pays the bills to fund his other climbing, then more power to him I suppose. He’s also made some good money on Everest too, btw.

Comments are closed.