Adrian Ballinger. Photo Credit: Alpenglow Expeditions
An Interview with Adrian Ballinger
We were fortunate enough to get to interview mountaineer and 13-time AmaDablam summiteer, Adrian Ballinger. Adrian is the founder and head guide of his company: www.alpenglowexpeditions.com
Learn more about Adrian Ballinger at: http://www.adrianballinger.com/
Editor: We appreciate you taking the time to speak to us, Adrian. Let’s begin by speaking about your recent trip to Nepal.
Adrian Ballinger: I’m happy to talk about it, it was a great trip and a successful trip for all the goals that we had in mind.
Editor: How many months were you and your team there?
Adrian Ballinger: On this most recent trip to Nepal, and I was actually there
twice, we were trying to climb Ama Dablam. I was there in October but only spent about 5 days there to sort of organize the logistics and get ready for the trip.
Then I came back home for 5 days and went back on October 28th and was there for about 3 weeks. It wasn’t that long of a trip, but we did rapid ascent trips where we try to help acclimatize both guides and members, so that when you’re up the mountain, you’re fully prepared.
Editor: So, how did this trip go?
Adrian Ballinger: Oh, it was fantastic! I mean we were there for filming a
commercial for a global health company called Abbott, and I got to put
together my dream crew. My partner Brian Warren and I were guiding and we had a 3 person film crew, who are all good friends, so it was easy to integrate them into a project like this. We had Gabe Rogel, Andy Bardon and Peter Doucette.
I also had 6 of my best Sherpa and a production crew to take to Base Camp. But the production crew weren’t climbers, they came to BC and supported our team. So, whenever I get to spend time in the Himalayas with some of my closest friends, who are great climbers, it is definitely a lot of fun. We also had a director
and creative people, things like that.
Editor: Is Ama Dablam a special mountain for you, personally?
Adrian Ballinger: Ama Dablam is probably my favorite single mountain in the
world; it is really technical rock and ice at 22,500 feet. The climbing is interesting and exposed and difficult. And I’ve summited the mountain 13 times over the past decade, so this is a time to go through and tell my story, and that was a lot of fun.
But it was also a difficult year on the mountains with deaths on other teams and quite a bit of objective hazard. Like, there was this one hanging serac about three quarters of the way up the peak. And so that led to a lot of difficult decision-making for our team as well as others.
Editor: Would you call your expedition a success?
Adrian Ballinger: Again we didn’t summit, but in terms of our goals it was a
total success. We climbed up just below that very dangerous part of the
mountain and we stopped climbing at about 21,500 feet, just below what’s
called the Dablam, the big hanging serac.
The really interesting part of the terrain of the mountain is at about 18,500 feet, and we did that terrain 3 days in a row. Up and down and up and down it for filming purposes, so I got to climb what was the best part of the mountain 3 times on 3 perfect days! So, yes, the trip was a total success.
Editor: Tell us about those Himalayan sunrises and sunsets!
Adrian Ballinger: Oh yes! Just an incredibly beautiful place, the sunrises and sunsets are unparalleled and the views of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Cho Oyu are just incredibly fantastic! We were the quite late in the climbing season,so the mountain wasn’t busy at all, it was very quiet and we got to enjoy the route without a lot of people there. Yeah, it was a perfect season.
Editor: So, a film is coming come out at some point, right?
Adrian Ballinger: Yes, exactly, we were shooting a documentary style look at
the mountain and big expeditions, and what a team like mine does, what
we do at Alpenglow Expeditions. Our big focus in my company, Alpenglow Expeditions, is show people the experience and the technical skills they need to go climb the mountain of their dreams.
And so, Ama Dablam is the culmination for our climbing program, where
people have worked years to be able to go to Ama Dablam and have the skills to experience high-altitude. And that’s sort of what the story is about. It is how our team makes that possible, and how we make it as safe as we possibly can, and what that partnership is like between clients and guides, where it is our job to make the mountain easy, without taking away any of the fundamental things that makes mountaineering so special. It is really a fine balance between the two.
Editor: How many people are there in a team?
Adrian Ballinger: This team had 5 western climbers going above BC and 6 Sherpa, so we were 11 altogether, and then in BC we had 5 of the production staff, our expedition doctor, a 4 person Nepali crew cooking for us, so altogether, we were 20 people.
Editor: When will we get to view this film?
Adrian Ballinger: I know that the team is already in New York, working on the
footage in the studios, but I hope it will be available early in the New Year.
Editor: Will it be online?
Adrian Ballinger: Yes, it will be online, from Abbott Global.
Editor: I’ll add a link to this interview as soon as they drop it. I can’t wait to see those sunrises!
Adrian Ballinger: Yeah, so much of alpine and big mountain climbing happens at night when the conditions are stable, and the time when you’re starting the climb may be at 10 PM or 11 PM or midnight, it is cold and dark and it is odd climbing through the night psychologically, but when the sun comes, it is actually this boost of energy that I feel, and it is not only beautiful but it rejuvenates you in so many different ways, so yes, the sunrises are so spectacular and extremely important to the climber.
Editor: Does that atmosphere feel spiritual for you in any way?
Adrian Ballinger: I think I personally feel spirituality in the mountains versus in the church or something like that, these places are just so incredibly, overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful, and when I’m in those mountains, there is never a doubt in my mind that the mountains are in control. We’re just visiting those places.
I’ve had so many experiences where we had our asses kicked by the mountains, so yes,there is a power there. I’m more reflective when I’m in the big mountains than in day to day life.
Editor: So, there is a power there that you’ve felt.
Adrian Ballinger: I think so, absolutely. And I think a lot of climbers feel it, too.
Editor: Are you planning on going back to Nepal?
Adrian Ballinger: I am. I’ll be guiding a team up Everest. I’ve always been on the south side of Everest for 6 years now, this time, I’ll be heading back to go to the north side of Everest, from Tibet.
Editor: That should be some amazing footage!
Adrian Ballinger: Oh, it should be beautiful! We’ll be able to capture footage and photos.
Editor: Thank you for talking to us, Adrian, and we hope to follow up with you on your upcoming expedition to Everest.
Climber Bio: Adrian Ballinger is one of the USA's premier high-altitude mountain guides, and the only American guide to have both AMGA/IFMGA guide's
certification (one of 75 in the USA) and more than 10 summits of 8,000
meter peaks (12 total, including 6 summits of Mt. Everest).
As founder and head guide of Alpenglow Expeditions (www.alpenglowexpeditions.com), Adrian has been guiding full-time for fifteen years and has led over 100 international climbing expeditions on 5 continents.
In 2011 he, along with 2 Sherpa partners, became the first people to
summit three 8,000 meter peaks in only 3 weeks (Everest twice and Lhotse
He is also the first person to ski Manaslu, the 8th tallest mountain in the world, from its summit, and the first American to successfully ski two 8,000-meter peaks. These personal successes are combined with Adrian's passion for guiding and teaching others. Adrian has led expeditions where more than 100 clients have successfully summited Everest, Lhotse (the 4th tallest mountain in world), Cho Oyu (6th tallest) and Manaslu (8th tallest).
Whether on skis, in rock shoes, or mountain boots, Adrian thrives on sharing
the big mountains with friends and clients, and helping them to build their skills and experience to be successful on the world's most beautiful mountains. In 2014 Adrian plans on continuing to enjoy big-mountain skiing, climbing, and guiding in the Himalaya, South America, Alaska, and of course closer to "home" in Squaw Valley, CA.
Adrian is a sponsored athlete for Marmot, La Sportiva, Petzl, Kaenon,
Goal Zero, Hypoxico, Alpenglow Sports and High Altitude Fitness.
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook page: 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
All images © of the designated photographer and emailed to us by Adrian.
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