If you were paying attention to our coverage of the climbing season in Pakistan this summer you probably already know that K2 was once again a significant challenge for alpinists. In fact, thanks to deep snow and a high probability of avalanche danger, the mountain ended up turning back about 90% of the climbers who had come to scale its lofty flanks. Many went home without even getting so much as glimpse of the summit, as the rope fixing team was stymied by the conditions. But thanks to the arrival of Nims Purja –– mountaineering’s latest superstar –– in Base Camp, things turned around, allowing a few very patient and strong mountaineers to head up the summit at long last. Amongst them was American Adrian Ballinger, who topped out a few hours behind Purja and his team. Ballinger, along with his climbing partner Carla Perez, scaled K2 without the use of bottled oxygen, and in doing so he became just the 4th American to accomplish that feat, and climb Everest without gas, as well.
Now that the expedition has wrapped up, and Ballinger is on his way home from Pakistan, he had the chance to sit down with Men’s Journal to discuss the expedition in more detail. In that interview, he discusses how climbing K2 has been a dream of his for more than 30 years, what’s like to join the other three Americans (Ed Viesturs, Steve Swenson, and Scott Fischer) who have made no-Os ascents of the highest peaks on the planet, and what it was like to meet and work with Purja. He also discusses the challenges of climbing an 8000-meter peak without oxygen, how commercial climbing is starting to impact K2, and the future of climbing on Everest.
This was Ballinger’s first go at K2 and it ended up being a successful one. That said, even as experienced of a climber as he is, he still felt intimidated and a little out of his element on the mountain. In the interview he talks about the infamous Bottleneck and what it was like climbing in the shadow of a massive serac for hours at a time. He also discusses the amazing view that is found near the top and hints that climbing K2 comes with a lot of rewards, it just happens to be incredibly risky too.
Adrian has earned himself a reputation for not only being an incredibly strong climber, but also an incredibly frank one. That’s what helps to make him a great person to interview and that shows through here. If you’re looking for a sneak peek behind the curtain, this interview at Men’s Journal is definitely worth a read. Check it out in its entirety here.
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