Over two decades, in his thirties and forties, Conrad Anker quietly conquered some of the most challenging big walls and unclimbed peaks in the world. And while Anker was never one to chase records or first ascents, he collected plenty of both in his relentless pursuit of the cleanest, most difficult lines in the world. “The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters,” he once told Men’s Journal. In 1999 he was chosen by National Geographic to search for the needle that was George Mallory’s body on the haystack that is Mount Everest—and he found it, of course. By 48, Anker was probably the most respected living climber on the planet—the elder statesman of climbing long before he was ever old—and he was anointed captain of The North Face climbing team. To this day, he chairs an impressive board that includes iconic figures like Alex Honnold and Jimmy Chin, that latter of whom he partnered with to conquer Mount Meru. The 21,800-foot spire in the Indian Himalaya (also known as the “Shark’s Fin“) is considered by many to be the hardest climb in the world, a relentless trifecta of terrifying weather conditions, technical terrain, and awkward rock-climbing moves. Anker himself says, “Meru is the climbing I live for.” It’s that climbing that has also cemented his place among the Mount Rushmore of mountaineering.
• In 2011, along with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, he became the first to summit the Shark’s Fin route on Meru Peak, in Garhwal Himalaya.
• He successfully summited Mount Everest three times in 1999, 2007, and 2012.
• In 1997 he, with Alex Lowe and Jon Krakauer, climbed Rakekniven, a 2,500-foot wall in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, a feat turned into a National Geographic documentary.
• In Patagonia, Conrad climbed the three towers of the Cerro Torre group, ascending new routes on Torre Egger (in 1994) and Cerro Standhardt (in 1995).
• In 1999, he survived a massive avalanche on Shishapangma, an avalanche that killed his close friend and climber Alex Lowe, as well as cameraman David Bridges.
The Last Word: Conrad Anker is the one name that comes up more than any other when debating “the greatest climber ever.” Even among today’s elite, he’s become known as both the coolest head and most talented mountaineer on any expedition. While fellow Meru expedition members Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk shouldered an admirable share of the risk and effort, like anyone who accompanies Anker on a climb, they were merely supporting cast members in his big, bold vision.
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