Mountaineer Conrad Anker discusses his new DVD The Wildest Dream, discovering George Mallory's body on Everest, and his plans to compete in the 2014 Olympics. To listen to the extended interview click here, or subscribe to our iTunes podcasts.
How did you become a professional adventurer?
Well, it wasn’t a job option on the high school aptitude test. Once I graduated from university, I wanted to climb and be outdoors as much as possible. I worked as a part-time carpenter and kept up a relationship with The North Face. One thing led to another and I'm lucky to be where I am now. It was a circuitous path with lots of adventure throughout.
How did it feel coming across George Mallory’s remains on Everest?
It was a very humbling moment. Mallory set the stage for the subsequent Everest ascent in 1953. His body had been covered in snow for most of the time, save for an exceptionally windy winter. During those times he was exposed, his body had been eaten by the ravens encircling Everest. In a way, he was given a sky burial, which is part of Tibetan culture.
What was it like recreating his journey for The Wildest Dream DVD?
We now wear oil-based clothing, from synthetic insulation to foam-insulated boots and nylon. In the 1920s, everything was organic—leather, wool, silk, and cotton. My admiration for Mallory increased every time it got cold. Noodling around on the North Side of Everest in a button-down jacket most people would wear for a casual dinner function, you’re like, “Oh my God, these guys were really strong.”
Favorite climbing movie?
Cliffhanger is good fun if you turn the sound off and watch it with some PBRs.
How can we find adventure in the modern world?
Specifically choose not to take a GPS. Just create a challenge. You can climb Everest or walk across Antarctica with minimal gear and still have that sense of adventure. But in terms of exploration, Google Earth has this world mapped down to the square foot.
Have you seen climate change effect at high altitudes?
As a climber, I practice the sport on tall mountains. If you compare Everest photographs in 1953 with its current state, things are melting. I imagine if I were a golfer in Indiana, I’d be hard-pressed to believe in climate change because nothing’s going on there. But when you’re up in the mountains and seeing the glaciers melt away, it’s an obvious physical manifestation of a warming planet.
Will we see you competing in 2014?
Probably not. You’re more likely to see a competition ice-climber like Sam Elias. I mean, I’m 48. If I made it to the Olympics, it’s because the youth are a bunch of slackers.