The wildly overhanging Shark’s Fin wall of 20,702-foot Meru Central, high in India’s Nanda Devi National Park, has for decades given the boot to a who’s who in global mountaineering. Even Conrad Anker failed it twice. On October 2, 2011, after 12 days on the wall, Anker, 49, Chin, 38, and Boulder-based mountaineer Renan Ozturk, 32, finally captured the prize. Beyond the avalanches and rockfall, the trio endured 5,000 feet of the hardest, most dangerous aid climbing out there. (Think 60-to-100-foot fall potential with “uncertain” landings.) It was Anker’s third attempt and Chin and Ozturk’s second. The three had tried the route together in 2008 but, as recounted in a 2009 Outside story (“Why Am I Here Again?”), had to retreat just 500 feet from the summit after storms had forced them to stretch eight days of food into 18.
This time the weather cooperated, but the adventure was not without drama. Six months earlier, Ozturk had cracked his skull skiing and severed a vertebral artery—the same type of injury that led to freeskier Sarah Burke’s death this past January. While on Meru, possibly because of a combination of reduced blood flow and high altitude, Ozturk suffered strokelike symptoms after a one-day elevation gain of 2,000 feet, covering ground it had taken the group six days to cover last time around. He could think clearly, but his words were gibberish.
The episode passed, and up they went. On the summit things turned emotional—no surprise, given how hard they’d worked for it.