In 2014, the world turned its gaze towards the tragedy on Mt. Everest in April. The story captivated the media, overshadowing what was elsewhere, a historic alpine season. The year saw first ascents in Pakistan, the Himalayas, Alaska, Argentina and the Canadian Rockies, and it was capped by a spectacular traverse in Patagonia. While climbers were reminded again and again of the tragic consequences of the sport, they celebrated unforgettable moments that were innovative, exploratory, and groundbreaking. These were some of the best alpine climbing moments of 2014.
First Ascent On Gasherbrum V (Pakistan)
Gasherbrum V remained the last unclimbed peak of the Gasherbrum Range. At 7,147 meters, the third highest mountain of the group has pushed back a number of expeditions with avalanche-laden slopes, unpredictable weather, and rock fall. On July 25th, Koreans Nak-jong Seong and Chi-young Ahn, ascended Gasherbrum V’s South Face and triumphantly summitted after navigating cracking glaciers, intense weather, and climbing for over 24 continuous hours from base camp to summit. Ahn said that the group faced 70-degree angled walls, constant threat of rock fall, and dicey ice-glazed faces. During the ascent, the group established only one bivy at 6,550 meters.
Kiwi Pair Bag Three First Ascents In Glacier Bay National Park (Alaska)
In April and May, New Zealand climbers, Paul Knott and Kieran Parsons, set out to attempt three first ascents in a remote corner of the Fairweather Range. The pair were inspired by the potential of the area, characterized by granite spires, 8,000-foot big walls, and an icy dark gray pyramid known as Peak 8290. The unclimbed mountain had seen attempts held back by a gaping bergschrund, wet slides, and relentless weather conditions. After first ascents on two smaller mountains above Johns Hopkins Glacier, the team traversed an icy and a treacherously corniced ridge, where good weather and a sturdy arête led them to the summit.
Spanish Mountaineer Breaks Records on Denali and Aconcagua (Alaska and Argentina)
On June 7th, Spanish ski mountaineer and skyrunner Kilian Jornet, smashed the speed record on Denali by ascending and descending in 11 hours and 48 minutes—five hours faster than his predecessor. Jornet crushed North America’s highest peak in an ultralight style, skinning most of the route on skis, using crampons for technical portions, and carrying no rope. He carried a single liter of water and 300cl of energy gel. Kilian ascended the Rescue Gully Route to avoid fixed lines and topped out via the classic West Buttress, before skiing the face back to base camp. Jornet is attempting to ascend the seven summits in his speed style. On December 23rd, Kilian smashed the ascent and descent record on Aconcagua with a 12-hour, 49 minute round trip to summit and back after trail running the typically two-day trail to base camp. He will attempt the speed record on Everest in 2015.
“Apocalyptic” Big Wall In BC Finally Climbed
It was a big year for Jonny Simms and Chris Brazeau. Earlier in the year, the Golden, BC team completed a ‘futuristic’ alpine and ski descent from Mt. Stephen’s North Glacier, and followed it up this summer with a first ascent on the mountain’s massive east face. Dubbed “The Apocalyptic Wall”, the 1,100-meter big wall in the Canadian Rockies features 20 pitches of sustained 5.11+ climbing. Combining techniques of free soloing, simulclimbing, and belays, the duo spent two days on the route, setting up a bivy in caves, and ascending limestone of dubious quality. The wall’s successful summit opens first ascent possibilities relatively unexplored area of the Rockies, as Simms and Brazeau lead the charge with futuristic and innovative climbing techniques.
Swiss Make Two First Ascents in Indian Himalaya and Second Ascent of Kishtwar Shivling
Two first ascents on 5,000-meter peaks, and the second ascent since 1983 of Kishtwar Shivling, marked a spectacular trip for the Swiss trio Dres Abbeggien, Thomas Senf, and Stephan Siegrist. On September 16th, they endured 75-degree sloped ice, and a bivy above 5,100-feet to summit the peak they named Shierpa, in honor of the wife of Shiva. Five days later, they ascended a granite fin to top out on Kharagosa, or “Rabbit” in Hindi. But the greatest accomplishment of their trip was the second summit on Kishtwar Shivling, a 5,895-foot granite wall that had been last climbed by the great British alpinists, Stephen Venables, and Dick Renshaw. The team pushed up 90-degree walls of ice, two bivys, and treacherous cornices, to successfully establish a new line.
The Fitz Traverse (Patagonia)
There is no climbing story in 2014 that was more audacious or exhilarating than the Fitz Traverse in February. Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell climbed ten peaks across the Fitz-Roy group in Patagonia in the span of five days, enduring dicey, wet conditions, ice-filled cracks, and poor weather. Starting on Aguja Guilaumet on February 12th and ending on Aguja de I’S on February 16th, Honnold and Caldwell traversed over five kilometers of ridgeline and 4,000-meters of vertical gain. The team used their speed and efficiency to simulclimb most of the route; shortening twenty pitch towers to as little as three pitches. In its entirety, they graded the traverse as 5.11, C1. Even more astonishing is their gear list. Alex and Tommy brought along a single ice screw, three Camalots, six quickdraws, and one ice tool between the two of them. The monumental traverse across Fitz Roy set a new standard for exploratory and ultralight climbing.