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Conrad Anker Conrad Anker
Meet the Team 1999
Conrad Anker

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.

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