Everest 2010: An Interview With Mike Farris

Alan Arnette continues to prep us all for the upcoming Spring Season on Everest, when he’ll have is usual great coverage with plenty of updates on the mountain. Until then, his Everest 2010 page is filling up with pre-season interviews and analysis, which now includes an interview with Mike Farris, a climber who went to the highest mountain on the planet last year, with a goal of climbing independently, only to find himself alone at the summit, and in trouble on the descent.

Before he went, Mike defined how he approached an “independent” climb of the mountain, and Alan included that definition in the pre-interview, background information. That definition was:

•Using most of the available fixed rope is unavoidable. I have to be content with the knowledge that I could climb the route without them, if need be. This doesn’t include the icefall, which requires fixed ropes for safety’s sake for all climbers.

•Anything I want to use above Base Camp, including oxygen, is carried by me. I won’t have any Sherpas carrying tents, food, fuel, stoves, etc. Except:

•Most teams set up an Advanced Base Camp at about 6400m (21,000 ft) and have a kitchen staff to prepare meals. Since I’m paying for this service anyway, I will use this ABC facility.

•I will use the minimum amount of bottled oxygen needed for safety. I won’t know what that amount is until I assess my level of acclimatization and fitness.

In the actual interview itself, Alan asks Mike about why he wanted to climb Everest with “style” and what that meant to him, why he chose to go alone, and what his thoughts were as he made his summit bid. When he set out last year, Make left Camp 4 at 10 PM, and spent eight hours climbing to the Balcony, which is, as Alan points out, a bit on the slow side. Farris reached the summit at 1:39 PM, very late in the day, and was instructed to spend just five minutes there. On the descent, the problems start to arise.

The interview is insightful and interesting, with Mike sharing his thoughts on what happened while he was alone at the top of the world. He also talks about his gratitude to those that helped get him down the mountain safely, and gives us an update on his healing process. Due to his exposure on the mountain, Mike had to have parts of seven fingers removed, as well as both big toes and six smaller toes, but says he is on the mend now.

Definitely a cautionary tale here. Well worth the read.

Kraig Becker