Marmot Athlete Adrian Ballinger Guides Complete Ski Descent of 8000-meter Peak: Cho Oyu
Rohnert Park (CA): Defining the border between Nepal and Tibet, runs the crest of the Himalaya, home to the world’s highest peaks including 26,906-foot Cho Oyo, the sixth highest mountain and one of only fourteen, 8000-meter peaks. On September 25, 2013 Marmot Athlete, Adrian Ballinger, an IFMGA certified mountain guide and owner of Alpenglow Expeditions—one of the most respected high-altitude guiding services in the world—reached Cho Oyu’s sky-splitting summit and then made a complete ski descent of the mountain with Russian ski partner, Sergey Baranov. This remarkable ski mountaineering achievement marks Ballinger’s second complete ski descent from an 8000-meter summit, and the fifth 8000-meter peak he has skied on.
“Cho Oyu was exceptionally special because of how ‘cleanly’ we were able to ski the peak,” Ballinger explains during a short interview from Thailand before returning to Nepal for another post-monsoon expedition this week. “We experienced deep but stable snow which made breaking trail to the summit extremely difficult. I took a short break in the middle of leading a 200-meter pitch and radioed to my teammates it was the hardest pitch I had ever led…..there were times when all I could do was put my head on the snow and breathe and hope it got easier,” he adds.
But the payoff was worth it. Ballinger and his team reached the summit of Cho Oyu (also known as the ‘Turquoise Goddess’ by Tibetans) at 12:40 pm in perfect weather conditions. It was the first summit of the mountain for the post-monsoon season. According to Ballinger, the snowpack on aspects of the mountain where crusts had not yet formed made for excellent skiing conditions.
“We had eyed a descent line on the way up, bypassing most of the cliffs and with a sweet couloir through the main rock band. It was as good as we hoped, and the skiing was phenomenal,” explains Ballinger. “It made every step of my ‘hardest pitch ever’ worth it. The turns just continued—almost 8000 feet of continuous skiing down to Camp 1 where the snow line finished,” he adds.
Ballinger reported throughout the expedition and about the ski descent with Sergey Baranov on the Alpenglow Expeditions blog site: http://www.alpenglowexpeditions.com/blog/summit-thoughts-cho-oyu-2013
Ballinger (37) is one of the few elite guides on Everest and other 8000-meter peaks who can physically hold his own while climbing with indigenous Sherpas, who are physiologically adapted to climbing in the rarified high altitudes of the greater Himalaya. Ballinger has reached Everest’s summit six times, often the only Western guide fixing lines with the Sherpas for his clients to follow. On Cho Oyu, Ballinger, along with Lhakpa Rita Sherpa, a friend from Alpine Ascents International (another guide service on the mountain), fixed all of the ropes above Camp 2 to safely ensure their client’s passage.
“Quietly and modestly paying his dues, Adrian has become one of the finest professional mountain guides out there tackling 8000-meter peaks—and now he’s skiing them,” explains Alex Gilbert, Marmot’s Athlete Manager who has worked closely with Ballinger for past two years as one of Marmot’s premier high-altitude mountain guides. “Adrian is an all–mountain tactician with unrivaled mental toughness and aspiration, managing every situation, from bold summit pushes to the day-to-day mountain logistics with calculated skill. He is the pinnacle of brand ambassadorship, and we are very proud to have him on the Marmot team.”
About Marmot Mountain, LLC
Marmot is an award-winning, globally distributed brand of high-performance, technical clothing, apparel and equipment. Since 1974, Marmot products have been worn by climbers, skiers, mountaineers and adventurers world-wide. Marmot works with professional mountain guides, world-class athletes and expeditions—pushing the limits of product innovation and technology—pioneering what is possible in the most extreme environments on earth. For more information about Marmot please visit www.marmot.com
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