122: Conrad Anker: Legendary Mountaineer, Filmmaker of Meru, and Discovered George Mallory on Mt Everest

October 25, 2019

Conrad Anker

Host Mark Pattison opens up the show with a quote from his guest Conrad Anker, “We don’t just measure greatest by the peaks that we climb, or the heights we reach, but rather by the positive impact that we create for ourselves, our communities, and our planet. Our goodness to reach each other is what makes us whole, and what endures for generations beyond our physical feats and achievements.”  

On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Conrad Anker, RLegendary Mountaineer, Filmmaker of Meru, and discovered the body of George Mallory on Mt Everest. Conrad shares his experiences as a mountaineer hand-picked to be sponsored by the North Face outdoor apparel company, how he met his wife, Jennifer, making the mountaineering documentary Meru, and his dedication to helping human beings during his eventful journey: “Throughout the world, the amount of time that women spend getting water is something that if you had an economist tabulate all of the hours and how much time that they have spent there, there is a lot of time that could be spent educating their children or working on their garden, doing needlework, or just relaxing, and enjoying life, rather than carrying water.”

What You Will Learn:

Conrad speaks highly of the work his wife Jennifer does and how they connected as a couple: “My own connection to Nepal is through my spouse Jennifer, with the Khumbu Climbing Center and its vocational training for high altitude workers, and that’s based in the Khumbu region in Nepal. So, it’s in Nepali hands now. They are taking over it.”

Conrad Anker has been with North Face for the last 25-30 for sponsorship. How often exactly has Conrad Anker climbed Mount Everest? “I’ve been to Everset three times. In 1999, and then again in 2007 and then 2012. Each of them was a different experience.” 

Where did he get the desire to get involved in mountaineering? Conrad’s father’s side of the family is from Tuolumne County in California. It is part of the northern half of Yosemite National Park. His mother was from Germany and she had family members that were climbers. “Living in Salt Lake (City) in the 80s, moving there in ‘81 onwards was a big opportunity because there is a great place to train for alpine climbing.”

Conrad Anker guides his own hand-picked crew. In 1999 he was tasked with finding the body of Geroge Mallory, the first British explorer on Mount Everest who was carrying a Kodak camera.

“He had seven layers of clothing on. Nylon wasn’t invented until about the Second World War, thereabouts. They were just into down feathers as insulation. The earliest down jackets were as a result of those pioneering British expeditions.  As long as they were moving they were OK.

In 1999, Conrad experienced avalanche that he was partially buried in. “There was a release of an avalanche up there and we had a moment of awareness and then we started running. We went from a sort of cognitive decision-making mindset to autonomic, where you are at the most reptilian part of your brain where survival sets in and you are like, ‘How can I save my life?’”

The Movie Meru

Meru is the documentary Conrad Anker helped create that was released in 2015, featuring the struggle to climb Mount Meru in the Himalayas. “It was a long process and so the first time I had a go at it was 2003 and got totally schooled and then came back in 2008 with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk and we got about 100 meters or so from the summit. We were just too risky. A small mistake getting large and becoming epic was very real. So we came back in 2011.”

Conrad’s Affinity for Antarctica

Conrad also discusses his enjoyment of Antarctica “In the Ellsworth range, there are seven principle summits within it that kind of form the spine of that.” During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, learn more about how Conrad continues to evolve in his life, reducing his personal climbing range down to about 5,000 meters since his heart attack: “Life is a linear experience. You don’t have to go back to something. You have done that and find something new to do and find out what that next opportunity in life is.”

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