The North Face athletes Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk have summitted the Shark's Fin route on the northwest face of the 20,700-foot Meru in the Garhwal Himalaya, one of the last great unclimbed features of the range.
With favorable weather, complementary skills and good climbing conditions the group was able to finish almost a week ahead of schedule. A stark contrast to previous attempts. Anker first attempted the route in 2003 but had to turn back two-thirds of the way up. In 2008 Anker returned with his current climbing team and spent 19 days on the wall before having to retreat just 100 meters from the summit.
Understandably, Shark's Fin represents one of the world's ultimate mountaineering tests. In the last 30 years top alpinists have attempted the climb but none of them were successful, until now. The face represents a combination of climbing features, the first third is an alpine snow-and-ice route, the middle section is a mix of ice and rock, while the last section is a grueling overhanging headwall.
The trio left Delhi in the midst of monsoonal rains and, after trekking across a glacier, they arrived at their base camp of Tapovan. There they spent three weeks acclimating, sorting gear and studying the route. Drawing on their prior attempts the athletes were able to make record time up the base of the route to Camp 1. Eventually the team worked their way to Camp 2 and finally the last overhangs, making a three-day push for the summit.
To outfit their expedition, the group used and tested The North Face's new Meru Kit, built specifically for high-altitude mountaineering. According to Chin, the trio used knowledge from their previous attempts to incorporate certain design elements into the products. At the end of the day the kit allowed the climbers to focus on the important aspects of their ascent.
As Ozturk said, “climbing with such close friends in one of the most visually stunning parts of the Himalayas is the kind of adventure that fuels my soul.”