If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that last July, I managed to climb a route I’ve been dreaming about for a while: the Frendo Spur on the north face of Aiguille du Midi, in Chamonix. The best part, however, was that my partner on it, Nick Valentine, had become a good friend in just a week and we had worked really well together on this climb.
Nick and another of his friends, Jon Gupta, with whom he climbed a few other routes in Chamonix after I departed last summer, decided a few weeks ago to up the ante and aim for an extremely ambitious goal: being the first two Brits to win the Snow Leopard Award. This medal used to be given by the Soviet Union to every climber who managed to summit all peaks above 7000m in the USSR, then as now a major accomplishment. There are five of them, now located in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By order of difficulty, Peak Lenin (7134m), Peak Korzhenevskaya (7105m), Peak Communism (7495m), Khan Tengri (7010m) and Peak Pobeda (7439m). And because we (almost) live in 2012 and not 1950, they’ll climb fast and light, alpine style, with no porters, no fixed lines and no pre-established camps. If conditions are right, it should be possible to manage all the summits in just 40 days, two less than the standing record currently held by superman Denis Urubko.
Last week, Jon came to Cham to practice some off piste skiing, and Nick made a quick trip from Verbier, which allowed us all to meet and discuss objectives, with the result that I can now announce I will join the expedition, as both a team member and a cameraman/photographer. I’ll of course do my best to reach all summits, but my priority will be to bring back some awesome footage to, ultimately, produce an inspiring movie.
Right now, the expedition is still in its early stages and we are actively looking for grants and sponsors (don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you think you may help!). I’ll probably talk about it some more whenever significant things happen, but if you want to keep in touch and stay updated on our progress, you can follow the 2012 Snow Leopard expedition on facebook and twitter, and a proper website is coming up soon.
And that’s only one of the three potential expeditions I have slated for 2012! Exciting times ahead for sure.