Chris Warner and Chhiring Sherpa topped out on Manaslu today, with Chris becoming just the second American to complete all 14 of the worlds’ 8,000 mètre peaks.
Chris is well known amongst the Himalayan climbing fraternity, as well as on the corporate lecture circuit, but has often flown below the radar, eschewing showy sponsorships or broadcasting his achievements beyond a modest group of friends and followers. But he is a lifelong climber with a passion for the high mountains that doesn’t necessarily include shouting from the heights, perhaps a rather welcome virtue these days.
He started his 14 peaks with Cho Oyu, 26 years ago. Along the way on this challenge, he also became the first American to Solo an 8,000 meter peak, with his ascent of the difficult South Face of Shishapangma.
He did some early stints guiding for Russell Brice on the North side of Everest, then an ascent of K2 in the early 2000´s that put him well out in front of the hoards and lines that are common now.
He returned to the Karakoram this Summer, with the plan to do the 4 remaining Pakistani peaks as quickly as possible. Following a rapid ascent of Nanga Parbat, he next moved over to the Gasherbrums, where he wandered over to say hello and catch up with us in our Advance Base Camp.
His approach to the peaks now, given his strong climbing background, is finely honed and refreshingly simple. With his lone Sherpa and current K2 speed record holder, Chhiring Sherpa, he climbs to a camp high enough they feel they can summit from, makes a dash for the top and returns back to as low a camp as they can.
So all that is needed is a short weather window and as much speed as they can muster.
On Gasherbrum 2, which we were also climbing, it means we could while away a pleasant afternoon together, talking through our first meeting in Antarctica and climbing Vinson, to Colorado climbing stories from when I grew up climbing and where Chris now calls home.
Chris is a climbers, climber, an easy and enjoyable conversationalist in the heights – he knows the mountains, the routes, the personalities and how to share a good story.
Chris and Chhiring left that evening from 6,000 metres at Gasherbrum ABC, saw sunrise from the heights, and reached the 8,035 metre summit 11 hours and 45 minutes after their departure.
That’s 2,000 metres of vertical, in sub-12 hours. With a rapid descent, they passed us along the spectacular Banana Ridge and were back in ABC for lunch. Not a bad way to summit a peak.
Being a bit more traditional, we had a sleep and an early start and still climbing in good time, we made it up to Camp 2 for a camp out, in about the same time Chris had climbed the entire mountain.
After a days rest, Chris and Chhiring were then off to the bigger challenge of Gasherbrum 1, done in similar style, before moving over and finishing up their Pakistani summer on Broad Peak.
Chris has also been a highly successful entrepreneur, one of the first to make climbing walls into real businesses, before selling them. He now balances his climbing and life in Aspen with motivational talks and an enviable roster of corporate clients.
This has allowed him to finish off all the peaks in a style of his choosing – very fast, with a single and highly talented Sherpa partner, in a time frame that gets him in, up, down and out again, taking advantage of the best weather and conditions. And his climbing skills ensure he is not waiting around for rope fixers or a team to break trail, he just goes when the time is right.
With all the focus on Everest, it still seems few Americans have moved onto the 8,000 metre peaks with the enthusiasm of other nations.
Ed Viesturs completed them all way back in 2005, climbing without oxygen and completing them in 18 years. And as recent data has shown, Ed is one of the very few who has actually reached the true summit of all of the 8,000 metre peaks.
It’s good to finally see another American join that exclusive club.