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INTERVIEW: Emily Harrington on her Rapid Ascent of Cho Oyu

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 UKC Articles 27 Oct 2016
Fresh as a daisy, ready for the summit, 3 kbEmily Harrington is one of the best all-round mountain athletes in the world. Her résumé includes podiums and finals in international competitions, a free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite, sport climbs up to 8c and ascents of Everest, Ama Dablam and most recently, Cho Oyu.

Alongside her boyfriend and regular climbing partner, Adrian Ballinger, Emily's most recent adventure on Cho Oyu is perhaps her most unconventional achievement. An ascent and ski descent of the 7,024m mountain, taking the pair just two weeks from leaving home in the US to returning, having acclimatised and prepared at home. Natalie Berry asks Emily about her aspirations for mountaineering and how she has managed to become such a versatile climber...



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In reply to UKC Articles:

7,024m?
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 AlanLittle 27 Oct 2016
In reply to Mark Collins:

Existing 8.000ers have had to be downgraded because of congestion at the upper end of the scale. 8,848 was done over 60 years ago, yet still nobody has had the courage to step up and claim 9,000+
In reply to AlanLittle:

Thanks for clearing that up for me Alan
In reply to UKC Articles:

"Mountain athlete"? What's wrong with "Mountaineer"?
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 Ian Parsons 27 Oct 2016
In reply to Robert Durran:

> "Mountain athlete"? What's wrong with "Mountaineer"?

I think it's the double "e", Robert; it also crops up in "breeches","tweed" and "beer". Not quite, fortunately, in "beard".
 GrahamD 27 Oct 2016
In reply to Ian Parsons:

"athlete" crops up in "athlete's foot"
 Ian Parsons 27 Oct 2016
In reply to GrahamD:
Yes - but we've already ruled out athlete's foot because it's rarely confined to just the one and we're back to the two "e"s in "feet". This doesn't apply to http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=61632.
Post edited at 13:09
 GarethSL 27 Oct 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

Am I the only one who initially read that as 'Emily Harrington on her Rapist'?

Must be the obscure use of capitals in 'Rapid Ascent', making me think it was a noun or something.
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 Tom Knowles 28 Oct 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

This kind of story never sits well with me. It's just a giant step back in climbing evolution, which isn't ok when it's broadcast as news - "Rapid Ascent of Cho Oyu". Why not "Emily Harrington on using supplementary oxygen to summit Cho Oyu". Doesn't sound quite so good, does it? But at least it'd be honest.

How can a story like this even exist when elsewhere this is taking place...

http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item/70662/interview_ale_cesen_and_luka_lindic_in_the_himalayas
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 Damo 28 Oct 2016
In reply to Tom Knowles:

> ... which isn't ok when it's broadcast as news - "Rapid Ascent of Cho Oyu". Why not "Emily Harrington on using supplementary oxygen to summit Cho Oyu". Doesn't sound quite so good, does it? But at least it'd be honest.

I agree. This ascent has been badly reported and has mostly been a plug for AB's business. It's not a newsworthy climbing achievement, despite being an impressive feat of logistics, money and technology - i.e. internet travel and weather planning, hyperbaric tech, commercial expedition Sherpa-fixed infrastructure etc.

I had just assumed they didn't use O2 and it was only upon reading this article I learnt they did. It wasn't actually a 'rapid ascent' of Cho Oyu at all, it was just a relatively quick expedition overall. The speed record on Cho Oyu is something like 13hrs and several people have done it in 13-18hrs (Russell Brice, Marty Schmidt, Steve House - all without O2). Reporting this as a 'speed ascent' in the climbing press is false, misleading and disrespectful.
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 muppetfilter 28 Oct 2016
In reply to Damo:

He really is riding her coat-tails like seabiscuit.
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 Steve Perry 28 Oct 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

Isn't Cho Oyu the easy one you can just hike up with no climbing?
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 galpinos 28 Oct 2016
In reply to Damo:

> and has mostly been a plug for AB's business.

That'/s how it read to me too. Quite the logistical feat to get all the camps set up up and everything in place before they boarded the plane but not impressive in climbing terms.
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 Damo 28 Oct 2016
In reply to galpinos:

> ...Quite the logistical feat to get all the camps set up up and everything in place before they boarded the plane ...

Well, to be fair(?), his company was already operating on the mountain with clients, so I guess it was just a question of adding an extra tent or two in.

And to put it into some context of current 8000m goings-on, this is pretty harmless stuff compared to the mess over on Manaslu at the same time.
 Hardonicus 28 Oct 2016
In reply to UKC Articles:

Blah blah blah oxygen blah blah blah.

Any ascent of an 8000er using O2 should be roundly ignored. Putting it simply - who cares?
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In reply to Tom Knowles:

The point of the interview was to find out more about Emily's ascent and ski descent and how she fitted in her training in alongside her other interests. It's not exclusively a news report and it's odd that people have chosen to single out the fact that climbing an 8,000m peak with supplementary oxygen isn't newsworthy when it isn't presented as being so in the article.

If you consider the bigger picture - how many people have made finals in international competitions, free climbed El Capitan, sport climbed up to 8c and climbed Everest, Ama Dablam and Cho Oyu?!
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 Damo 29 Oct 2016
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

> .... it's odd that people have chosen to single out the fact that climbing an 8,000m peak with supplementary oxygen isn't newsworthy when it isn't presented as being so in the article.

Except that the title of the article says the interview is "...on her Rapid Ascent of Cho Oyu."
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In reply to Damo:
I completely agree with Damo.

I'm not saying that Emily and Adrian's ascent was not a difficult thing to achieve especially while Emily excels as rock climber as well. But the way they try to promote their "rapid ascent" as some kind of progression in style is deeply flawed in my opinion.

Using sherpas to set up your camps, bottled oxygen and expensive pre-acclimatization tents. Their ethos seems to be that getting to the top is more important than how you get to the top. A massive step backwards from the self-sufficient , light weight alpinism i think of as progressive.

Particularly the idea that going up a mountain by using high-altitude sherpas to carry your gear and take risks for you is a legit ascent of the mountain, is something I think needs to be discouraged by the mountaineering community. It is this ethos that ultimately leads to the exploitation and fatalities of sherpas on Everest.
Post edited at 16:31
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 Stuart S 30 Oct 2016
In reply to Pete Graham:

There's a lot of people on this thread who are being pretty hard on Emily for what she's done, and UKC for reporting it. Personally, I actually found the article/interview to be interesting because I'd only ever heard of Emily as a rock climber and didn't realise she had been to the Himalaya. I also hadn't previously heard of anyone summiting an 8000m peak in a 2 week trip, and found that interesting as an approach to optimising performance at multiple climbing disciplines.

While I understand the concerns/criticisms that this approach is only possible by standing on the shoulders of those who pre-prepared the route (particularly if this turned into a commercial approach for rich westerners), I'm less critical of her decision to use supplementary oxygen as an enabler for a safer ski descent. If that was her personal goal for the trip, that's up to her. Yes, summiting an 8000m peak using additional oxygen isn't newsworthy in itself, but the article was about more than that, and I enjoyed reading it.
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