New Superhero: The Cold Avenger

Last summer on Denali, North America’s highest mountain, I tested a product called “Cold Avenger”, a mask designed to protect the face in cold and windy environments.

The mask performed very well, letting you breathe through a rubber piece, which ensures that the entire mask doesn’t get wet and freeze.

Anyways, the product is great, but I got chuffed today when I came across the website for Cold Avenger (click here). I’m featured alongside Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who’s described as the greatest living adventurer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funnily, the slogan “I am ColdAvenger” also brought back memories of last summers blockbuster movie Avenger, featuring various cartoon superheros, so I decided that The Cold Avenger must be one too! ;-)

 

First Anniversary of My Seven Summits

Today’s the first anniversary of my Seven Summits – climbing the highest mountains of every continent as the first person from my native Finland.

The “Seven Summits” –term was coined by Richard Bass, an American climber, who became the first to climb the mountains in 1985.

  • Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro (5895m) in Tanzania
  • Antarctica: Vinson Massif (4897m)
  • Asia: Mount Everest (8850m) in Nepal
  • Australia: Mount Kosciuszko (2228m) in Australia
  • Europe: Mount Elbrus (5642m) in Russia
  • North America: Denali (6194m) in USA
  • South Africa: Cerro Aconcagua (6962m) in Argentina

A year later, legendary Italian mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, also climbed the Seven Summits, but instead of climbing Mount Kosciuszco in mainland Australia, he felt that the highest mountain for Australian continent should be Carstensz Pyramid (4884m), which stands in the middle of the jungle on the island of Papua in Indonesia.

There mountaineering community remains split regarding which one is the correct mountain for Australia, so both views are accepted and referred to as the Bass and Messner Seven Summits Lists.

To date, roughly 350 people globally have climbed the Seven Summits. I’m one of around 100 people that have climbed both Bass and Messner Seven Summits Lists, so there’s no room for dispute ;-)

My Seven Summits project was an amazing experience. It started ten years ago in Africa, although at that time I viewed climbing Kilimanjaro simply as a mountain climb, not the start of a big project. Over the years, my climbs took me around the world to interesting places and finally on June 22nd, 2012 I completed the project by summiting Denali in
Alaska, USA.

It was an amazing feeling to complete a project that required years of focus and dedication, but also led to a feeling of what’s next and a desire for another big project. I’ll tell you more about what that ill be later!

Keep Moving!

I attended the launch of ANTA, the world’s 4th largest sportswear brand, in Dubai tonight.

Despite being a US$4.4 billion conglomerate, neither the ANTA brand nor their slogan “Keep Moving” are very well known globally yet, but they have a huge selection of products at very attractive prices, so there’s no doubt this one will be a big hit in the Middle East.

ANTA is brought to the Middle East by Regal International LLC. Best of luck to Raju, Sam, Aarathi and the rest of the Regal / ANTA team!

Mountains Under the Ice

One of the only remaining little-explored frontiers in the world today is Antarctica.

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole on the 14th December 1911, but despite the +100 years of exploration, it’s still largely unexplored.

Most people know Antarctica as the coldest continent on earth. The coldest natural temperature ever recorded, -89.2C, was measured at the Vostok Station on Antarctica in 1983, while the average temperatures on the South Pole range from -26C to -56C.

However, most people don’t realise that Antarctica is actually a desert – the annual precipitation is only 200mm, which makes Antarctica the driest continent on earth.

It may sound bit counterintuitive, but the driest continent on earth is actually 98% covered in ice, which averages 1.6 km in thickness and makes Antarctica the highest continent on earth.

The Antarctic Icecap represents over 70% of the fresh-water resources on earth and hence is extremely important to the ocean ecosystems around the world. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey have recently estimated that if the icecap melted, the ocean levels would rise by 58 meters.

I’ve had a chance to visit Antarctica twice – once arriving by boat from South America, exploring the edge of the Antarctic Peninsula and once when climbing Vinson Massif, the highest mountain on Antarctica.

My first time to this breath-taking place included a chance to visit Palmer Station, an American research post on the Antarctica Peninsula as well as a chance to see icebergs, leopard seals, whales and penguins close-up. I’ll remember the trip forever.

However, the second trip was even more impactful – I flew into the Union Glacier Camp onboard a massive Russian Ilyushin cargo plane and then continued with a small Otter to the base of Mount Vinson. On the way you see hundreds of mountains, most of which no-one has ever set foot on.

Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey have done an amazing job in mapping the topology of Antarctica underneath the ice and National Geographic has put together a cool image allowing the viewer to discover what’s underneath the ice themselves. See it here!

I find Antarctica extremely fascinating and dream of following the footsteps of Roald Amundsen and skiing unsupported to the South Pole, an expedition of approximately two months as well as exploring some of those unclimbed mountains and making some first ascents, which also entitle the expedition to name the mountain.

 

The Biggest Mystery on Everest

The biggest mystery that continues to interest people regarding Mount Everest is no doubt the faith of the summit attempt of George Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine on June 8th, 1924 – almost 30 years before Everest was officially conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

Mallory and Irvine, part of a British Mount Everest Expedition, had set off from their high camp at roughly 8,200m on the North Ridge of Everest and at 12:50 they had been seen less than 300 meters from the summit – just before disappearing into a pre-monsoon snow storm and only to reappear in the pages of history.

In 1999, the Mallory and Irvine Research Expedition was organised to discover evidence of whether Mallory and Irvine had reached the summit during their June 8-9th attempt or not.

The expedition was organised and led by IMG founder Eric Simonson and based on the research of Jochen Hemmleb, who had identified an area in which he expected to find both Irvine’s body along with a camera, which, had the pair been successful, should contain a summit photo.

Within hours of beginning the search on May 1st, Conrad Anker found a body on the North Face, at 8,155m, but to everyone’s surprise it turned out to be Mallory, not Irvine.

Mallory’s body was found well-preserved only an hour or two from the safety of where their camp had been. However, the biggest news was created by what was missing. Mallory had carried a photograph of his wife Ruth with him, which he had planned to place on the summit in the event of success – but it was no longer part of his possessions.

No-one apart from Mallory and Irvine knows what really happened on June 8th, 1924 and until Irvine’s body and more importantly, his Vest-Pocket Kodak camera is found, the faith of their expedition will continue to split opinions.

 

 

2013 Everest Season Recap

This year was always going to be special – after all it’s the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

With big expectations 29 teams consisting of 315 climbing permit holders approached Everest from Nepal (the South Col Route) and 10 teams consisting of 100 climbing permit holders from China (the North Ridge Route).

 

There was unprecedented coordination of climbing and summit push strategies between teams – everyone keen to avoid the traffic jams of last season on both the Lhotse Face and the Hillary Step, which I had experienced first-hand.

Fortunately, this season was also characterized by a long summit window, from May 17-25th, with excellent weather. This, along with the coordination between teams ensured that most climbers avoided major traffic jams during their summit pushes and based on latest count almost 190 climbing license holders reached the summit – reflecting a 44% success rate.

Among those successful was Dave Hahn, who recorded an amazing 15th summit – a record for a non-sherpa climber. The Sherpa record of 21 summits is shared between Phurba Tashi and Apa Sherpa.

Another noteworthy achievement this season was 80 year old Yuichiro Miura from Japan becoming the oldest person to summit Everest. Amazing feat!

Unfortunately, this season will also be remembered for negative things. Nine climbers lost their lives during the season, just shy of last year, which turned into the second deadliest in history. Among the deaths was very experienced and much liked Alexi Bolotov from Russia.

The season will also be remembered for a fight that took place in Camp 2, at 6500m, on the South side, between Simone Moro and Ueli Steck and a group of Nepali Sherpa – triggered by an unnecessary incident above 7000m on the Lhotse Face. Much has been written about the incident, so I will only state that the resulting negative publicity towards mountaineering across the globe was unfortunate and will take long to erase from the minds of the general public.

Image by Justin Merle.

 

60th Anniversary of the First Ascent of Mount Everest

At 1130 local time on May 29th, 1953 – exactly 60 years ago, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made history by becoming the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Hillary and Norgay were part of the ninth British expedition led by John Hunt and financed by the Joint Himalayan Committee of the Alpine Club and the Royal Geographical Society, which had decided to attempt the summit via the South Col route from Nepal.

Nepal had only opened its doors to expeditions in 1950 and Hillary was part of a British expedition in 1951, which had surveyed the route and confirmed that it could be used to reach the summit. However, their attempt had been stopped by an impassable crevasse in the Khumbu Icefall.

Further, Norgay had been part of a failed 1952 Swiss Mount Everest Expedition, during which he had been personally forced to abandon the summit bid 150 meters from the South Summit, which stands at 8750m.

During this early period of exploration on Mount Everest, the Nepalese government limited expeditions to only one per year and given that a French expedition has received the permit for 1954 and a Swiss expedition for 1955, the British team was under pressure to claim the first ascent.

The expedition established a total of six camps to reach the South Col at 7900m and launched the first summit bid, by Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans on May 26th, using closed-circuit oxygen systems. The two-man team became the first to reach the South Summit at 8750m, but was then forced to abandon their summit bid due to becoming exhausted as well as having problems with the oxygen systems and running out of time.

On May 27th, the expedition launched their second and last attempt at the summit by the climbing pair of then 33 year old Edmund Hillary and 38 year old Tenzing Norgay. The pair reached the top of the world at 1130 local time on May 29th, achieving the historic first ascent of the highest mountain on earth.

News of the expedition’s success reached London on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s ation on June 2nd, 1953. By the time Hillary and Norgay returned to Kathmandu some days later, they had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. However, more importantly, they had inspired thousands to pursue their footsteps to the top of the world, including myself.

1st Anniversary of my Everest Summit!

Exactly a year ago today, I took my last steps to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth.

There’s no shortcut to the top of the world. Those last few steps on the summit ridge represented the conclusion of years of preparation and training, including almost two months on Everest itself, acclimatizing and waiting for a summit window to arrive, which would allow a push to the summit through the dangerous Death Zone.

 

 

The most common question I get from people regarding Everest is “Why expose yourself to all the hardship and risk your life trying to reach the top of the world?”

The answer is that I’m not sure. I’ve always been keen to test my limits, both in my professional and private lives, which is probably the reason for the desire to see whether you’re strong enough physically and mentally to deal with the challenges posed by Mount Everest.

Whatever the original reason that led me to climb Mount Everest, it left a fire at the bottom of my stomach, which means that I’m not done yet. More adventures await.

20th Anniversary of the First Finnish Ascent of Mount Everest

Twenty years ago today, on May 10th, 1993, then 25 year old Veikka Gustafsson took his last steps to the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the first person from Finland to reach the top of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This historical achievement propelled Veikka to pursue all the 14 over 8000m high mountains in the world without the use of supplementary oxygen.

He completed the project 16 years later in 2009, becoming only the 17th person in history to complete this amazing feat and just the 9th to do it without the use of supplementary oxygen.

 

Veikka has been an excellent flag carrier for Finnish mountaineering and Finland as a nation throughout his project and also set a great example for the next generation of mountaineers like myself.

Thanks Veikka and congratulations on the anniversary!

IMOCA Ocean Racing World Championship

I’ve had a great albeit short trip to Lausanne, the home of the International Olympic Committee, in Switzerland. I love the views of Lake Geneva surrounded by the mountains!

I was honoured to be invited to present the awards at the IMOCA Ocean Racing World Championship ceremonies held at the amazing Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne.

 

The event was attended by four former world champion, which helped create a great atmosphere for the presentation of trophies.

The world championship went to Mr Francois Gabart, who recently won the 7th Vendee Globe, setting a new world record time for the solo round-the-world sailing race, which is regarded as the Mount Everest of sailing.

Tomorrow it’s time to pack bags and head back home – although would have happily spent a week or two in Lausanne!