Professional mountain climber Adrian Ballinger has summited Mt Everest six times already, but that didn’t fade his excitement as he announced on Instagram that “9 Sherpas using supplemental oxygen became the first to summit on the South Side of Everest in three years.” Ballinger was mostly right – except for the timeline. A Chinese climber actually reached the summit in May 2014, before Everest was closed to climbers for two consecutive climbing seasons following a series of fatal avalanches.
Ballinger’s climbing partner Cory Richards, a NatGeo Photography Fellow, also posted about the Sherpa team’s summit grab. His words brimmed with metaphors about the emotional intensity of such an adventure. “Today I was looking in the mirror at a fear that I’ve never overcome,” Richards wrote on Instagram. “And today, because I was angry, the mountains were angry… But the truth is the mountains are indiscriminate. They don’t care. They shine when it is sunny and they fall when it is snowy. It’s what we bring to them that defines our experience…and maybe even more important, it’s how we are changed by them and what we bring home and share that matters most.”
Ballinger and Richards (who has never summited Everest) are climbing the mountain without supplemental oxygen, making their attempt much more grueling. The two are not climbing with the Sherpa team, but trailing as their guides forge ahead. According to Ballinger’s post on Instagram, the pair of climbers are camped out on the mountain’s North Col as their bodies acclimatize without oxygen tanks and they will venture higher on the mountain Thursday.
Climbing Mt Everest is an expensive and dangerous job. The adventure costs at least $35,000, which includes a $10,000 climbing permit. Since 1921, more than 250 climbers who attempted to bag the tallest peak in the world died while trying, mostly as a result of avalanches. Eighteen hikers perished on the 29,029-foot mountain during Nepal’s devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake last April, while hundreds of others had to be airlifted out via helicopter after being stranded.