Climber Conrad Daniel Anker resides in Big Oak Flat, California, and has been climbing for more
than 20 years. His preferred style is known as technical alpine climbing, which involves the use of ropes.
NOVA: What is the highest altitude you've ever reached, and have you been to Everest before?
ANKER: This is my first expedition to Everest and it's one of those peaks that's always
had a great allure for me. Ever since I was a youngster it's always been "Everest" and it seemed
as though they were astronauts up there with their oxygen systems.
The highest elevation I've been is 23,000 feet on Annapurna
IV, but I've been to 7,000 meters six times. I've done some
technical climbing at that altitude and also I've done some speed climbing at that altitude. But
coming here to Everest, there's a huge unknown between 23,000 and 29,000 feet. How am I going to
do up there? There's a certain element of my own physiology that I don't know about. I wake up
in the morning at 4:00 a.m. and I'm stirring in my tent and I'm wondering, 'How am I going to do up there?'
NOVA: What is your role on this expedition?
ANKER: My participation on this expedition is primarily to try to free climb the
Second Step. This is integral to the mystery of Mallory and Irvine.
How hard is it, technically speaking? I'm really excited about this because I've wanted
to free climb it, which means just using your hands and feet to climb, no ropes. There's a
ladder up there that everyone has used since 1975. What is the real rating of the Second Step?
How steep is it? To give it a shot, on-site, without having been on the route before, not knowing
the rock type, this being my first time at that altitude—by my estimation this is a good way
to test whether Mallory and Irvine could've done it. I like to climb by fair means and I'm sure
it's probably easier to march up the ladder. But for me it's more fulfilling if I can go in
there knowing that it is with my own hands and feet and my own technique and my own gear that
I place that I was able to climb the Second Step.