Tents at Tapocan base camp glow in the Himalaya night.
By Samantha Cook; Photographs courtesy The North Face
For more than 40 years the Shark’s Fin, a route on the northwest face of the 20,700-foot Meru in the Garhwal Himalaya, eluded the attempts of some of the world's top alpinists and remained one of the last unclimbed features of the region. Not anymore.
The North Face athletes Conrad Anker (right), Jimmy Chin (center), and Renan Ozturk (left) reached the summit today, nearly week ahead of schedule. Their feat is notable. Shark’s Fin is considered on the world's most challenging climbs, as its terrain is diverse. The lower third is a classic alpine snow-and-ice route, the middle a mix of ice and rock, and the final section is an extremely difficult, overhanging headwall.
The trio was well aware of the difficulties they would face. They had attempted the route in 2008, but were forced to turn around when they were just 100 meters from the summit.
“It’s some of the most technical, high-altitude climbing on Earth in unimaginably punishing conditions,” said Anker. “This time we came back to settle some unfinished business. We all had something that kept us motivated.”
The team was determined to not repeat their previous experience. They spent three weeks at the base camp of Tapocan acclimating, sorting gear, and studying the precarious climb that lay ahead of them. Their fortitude paid off, and the Shark’s Fin was completed in just six days, unhindered by any sort of setback. Besides their familiarity with the route, the climbers credited favorable weather conditions and the strength of each individual team member to their success.
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“We all complement each other well,” said Ozturk, who participated in the expedition just five months after fracturing his vertebrae and skull in a ski-mountaineering accident in Jackson, Wyoming. “Conrad is the ice- and aid-climbing master, Jimmy is strong on aid-climbing and steep, snow trenching, and I’m more tuned for the free climbing required on the climb’s middle section.”
For Ozturk, the reward of the climb was less about being the first alpinists to complete it, and more about the cultural experiences and stunning landscapes him and his teammates were able to experience together. “Climbing with such close friends in one of the most visually stunning parts of the Himalaya is the kind of adventure that fuels my soul,” he said.