6 Great Alpine Climbs Of 2014

©istockphoto.sjoeman
©istockphoto.sjoeman

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.