this article from the British newspaper The Guardian. It tells the story of Sandy Allan and Rick Allen, two climbers we followed this past summer as they took on the grueling Mazeno Ridge in Pakistan. The ridge is a 13km (8 mile) long route that culminates at the summit of the 8126 meter (26,660 ft) Nanga Parbat, the 9th highest peak in the world, and conquering was one of the most awe inspiring accomplishments in climbing over the past decade or more.
While I wrote regularly of Sandy and Rick's climb this past summer, we were never able to get the whole story of their expedition. We did know that they had set out, along with three Sherpas and a third team member – Cathy O'Dowd, on what they thought would be an eight day summit push to the top of Nanga Parbet. But their estimates proved to be well off the mark and the route along the Mazeno Ridge was tougher and took longer than they expected. As a result, O'Dowd and the Sherpas would abandon the climb more than a week in, leaving Allan and Allen to struggle onward.
And struggle onward they did. It would take Sandy and Rick a total of 18 days to complete their expedition, finally topping out at last. The last three or four of those days they were without food of any kind and they didn't even have fuel to melt snow for water. Even the descent, which was expected to take no more than a day-and-a-half, stretched out to three days, as the two men suffered from exhaustion, dehydration, hunger and frostbite. High winds, deep snow and cold temperatures all conspired against them, but neither man would give up on their dream of completing the "last great climb" of the Himalayas, and because of that determination they were able to stand on top at last.
It isn't much of an overstatement to say that Sandy and Rick's accomplishment is one of the top feats in mountaineering in recent memory. The Mazeno Ridge required a rare combination of skill, endurance and determination to complete, and anyone who followed the summer climbing season in Pakistan this year knows that the weather was less than cooperative. That they were able to complete this extremely difficult climb under the conditions they did is nothing short of miraculous.
Last week I posted a story about the announcement of the National Geographic Adventurers of the Year for 2013. In that article I noted that I was a bit disappointed with the selection, feeling that some of them were a bit too safe and easier to market. I noted in that story that I was fortunate enough to be amongst those that Nat Geo asked for nominations for this year's awards and that a number of people that I felt were more deserving didn't get the nod. I had a couple of readers write to me to inquire about who I would have liked to have seen make the list and while I've been diplomatic in my responses, after reading this article from The Guardian, I have no problem saying that I feel Sandy and Rick deserved to be amongst the winners. Their pure approach to mountaineering is refreshing and their strength of will is something to be admired. I'm glad they are getting some recognition for their accomplishment, which in another era would have been front page news.
Thanks to George for sharing this great article.