Archive for October, 2009

The Elusive Unmarried Daughter

Jamie Clarke and Team Expedition Hanesbrands Take On Pumori

“I’ve stared at it from Everest base camp, from camp IV, and from the summit,” says Jamie Clarke. “I’ve always loved the look of its beautiful, cone-shaped peak. From a sheer aesthetic point of view, I like the thought of standing on it and looking outward.”

A mountain that evokes this much intrigue needs to be explored further. On October 8, Clarke and his Hanesbrands expedition team will set out from Kathmandu to climb the South Ridge route of Mount Pumori (or “Unmarried Daughter in the Sherpa dialect), a symmetrical 23,494-foot peak that sits about five miles west of Mount Everest.

“Jamie went for a big one on his conditioning climb,” says Wally Berg, owner of Berg Expeditions International, the company that is orchestrating Clarke’s Pumori and spring 2010 Everest climbs.

Clarke, who is from Calgary, Alberta, climbs some of the most precipitous North American mountain terrain in his backyard, but the Himalaya dwarfs the Canadian Rockies: If it were laid out across the U.S. it would stretch from New York to Texas. Reaching Pumori base camp requires a trek through the jungle and past Sherpa villages that have thrived in the high-altitude for centuries.

Named by George Mallory back in the 1920s, Pumori is a beautiful foreboding mountain that gets a lot less climbing traffic than other Himalayan 7,000-meter peaks. It may fall a few thousand feet short of Everest, but Pumori is a major expedition unto itself. Pumori base camp sits at 17,389 feet, a few thousand feet higher than 14,505-foot Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48. Steep rock and mixed rock/ice sections are as challenging as anything on Everest, and avalanche hazard low on the mountain is a concern, especially in the fall. On average, there are fewer than ten Pumori summit attempts per year.

“It’s a serious mountain,” says Clarke. “I want to get high on it whether we summit or not. I’m not looking for difficulty, but it would be great if we had some gnarly weather to challenge our gear and our team.”

The Pumori climbing team, which includes Todd Craig, Scott Simper, Sara Lingafelter, and a ringer Sherpa team led by Clarke’s longtime friend Ang Temba, will use Pumori to test gear, climbing styles, and communication. They’ll also use the view from Pumori to scout the South Col, the route Clarke intends to climb on Everest. Charlie Stack, Expedition Hanesbrands’ project manager, Mike Abbott, the company’s director of research and development, and North Carolina-based documentary film crew Gillder Frontier, will trek with the team to base camp.

“I can’t wait to get back to the Khumbu, drink a little chang, and get back into the villages of my Sherpa friends and teammates,” says Clarke. As for the climb itself: “Safety is my number one priority, but if we had a tail wind and a blue-sky day, I want to get to the summit. I’d love to deliver.”