3 Jul 2018

Conrad Anker: ice, rock and mountain climber extraordinaire

From Nine To Noon, 10:07 am on 3 July 2018

Conrad Anker has been described as America's best all-round alpinist.

He's a rock climber, ice climber and big peak mountain climber, having made the summit of Everest numerous times - without oxygen - and peaks on many continents around the world, including Antarctica as recently as last December.

In 1999, on an expedition to Mt Everest, he discovered the body of George Mallory - 75 years after his disappearance.

He is widely known for the succesful ascent of the Shark's Fin route on Meru Peak in the Himalayas with fellow climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk - documented by photographer Chin, and made into the award winning film Meru.

He tells Nine to Noon's Kathryn Ryan that humans by nature are driven to explore, which is why we are the dominant species on this planet.

"This drive for exploration I think is an elemental part of human nature and for some people that drive is a little bit stronger.

"For climbers finding a section of rock that has not seen human visitation acts as a lure."

He says Meru was the epitome of what climbing stood for when he was cutting his teeth.

"Having one person that wasn't belaying or lead climbing allowed them to manage the haul bags and the camp stuff but then in this case break out the camera and document the ascent.

"In that sense the Meru film, there's no recreation, there's no CGI stuff, it's sort of authentic. It was shot on the climb.

The North Face Meru Expedition, 2011

Photo: ©Jimmy Chin

"It takes the viewer to that peak and accepting the cold and the hunger, you can kind of get an idea of what it's like to be in an exposed situation.

He says climbing forces him to focus on things in a unique way that allows him to assess risk. 

"To stay focused is still a challenge to me, I was horrendous when I was in grade school, but in climbing because gravity is there and every action has consequence to it, it forces myself and my climbing partners to have that distinct way to rationalise and assess risk and make decisions on that." 

Conrad is in Wanaka for the Mountain Film and Book Festival.