How a Remote Peak in Myanmar Nearly Broke an Elite Team of Climbers

On one of mountaineering’s most dangerous journeys, a group was pushed to the limit by physical and mental challenges.

The wind slams into me, and I desperately grip my ice axes to keep from being ripped off the mountain face. I push my head against the snow, calm myself, and look down. Beneath my crampons is a 5,000-foot drop. It’s like looking down from the open door of an airplane. I am roped to my two companions, with nothing attaching us to the mountain. A fall here would send all three of us plummeting to our death.

When the wind subsides, I pound an aluminum stake into the snow and clip the rope to it. It wouldn’t hold if I were to fall but gives me enough psychological comfort to continue. I concentrate, methodically swinging my ice tools and kicking my crampons. At a rock rampart I place an anchor and belay my partners, Cory Richards and Renan Ozturk, across the chasm.

“Nice lead, dude!” Cory shouts above the roar of the wind when he arrives. He climbs onward, slanting left, searching for a passage up through the granite and snow. When Renan reaches me, there is no room on my ledge, so he traverses out to his own perch. Cory carefully tiptoes the teeth of his crampons along a thin ledge above us and disappears from sight.

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