(Tina Sjogren) Veteran of 14 mountaineering expeditions on 8000 m peaks, Ryan Waters has climbed Everest from both Tibet and Nepal. Last spring he was in basecamp during the earthquake, providing first aid in the devastated lower sections.
He returned to Nepal that fall when tourism was scarce; to help locally, scale some unclimbed lines, and most importantly to show that visiting Nepal was safe again.
Ryan told Explorersweb earlier that his team will not return to Everest this year, which he confirms in this heads-up interview kicking off the 2016 Himalaya season.
ExplorersWeb: Hi Ryan, are you coming back for Everest this season? If not, what will you be up to?
Ryan: I will not be on Everest this upcoming season, we pushed our next climb of Everest until Spring 2017, where our climbers from the Earthquake season plus additional team members will be returning. Instead this season, I am going to be guiding in Pakistan starting in June, we have both Broad Peak and Gasherbrum 2 expeditions underway so I will be busy planning in the Spring for that season as well as our other Mountain Professionals programs on Elbrus and Kilimanjaro.
So for me it is a bit of office time, oh and I might sneak away for a filming project on a climb in May.
ExplorersWeb: Some say there's weak signup for Everest this year, others that they have more clients than ever, still some that only new climbers have been slow to come around. What's your take? How have the events of the recent seasons affected demand?
Ryan: Well it seems to be the case for a lot of people, that there are questions surrounding the Everest climb due to the past two unfortunate seasons.
My gut tells me that it will be a normal year there, with lots of people trying to climb, I have not checked with other groups at all so I am not sure about numbers. We chose several months ago to just give the mountain a rest for the upcoming season, not for any specific reason, just a culmination of things.
As everyone knows, drama on Everest does not seem to dampen the demand for climbers interest, sometimes it makes it more intriguing, so it is anyones guess what the numbers will be like. I know that we could have had a small team this year but we made a decision to wait.
I think that now more than ever, it is important for climbers to really weigh the decision of what style team they want to go with. All the talk of the myriad of options, local outfitters, and some choice foreign companies that will take almost anyone on their teams, makes for an interesting mix of climbing groups there.
We go the route of only bringing climbers who we are comfortable with their past experience and often we know them from past expeditions. This allows us a really unified team feeling, which was very helpful for example last season when the earthquake happened. We knew everyone was on the same page, which you do not get with fragmented groups of individual climbers.
ExplorersWeb: What's the latest on permits and the general Himalaya climbing season ahead?
Ryan: The permits for those on the canceled season have been extended a couple years, which is very good to see that Nepal ministry taking a decision that will benefit the climbers. I know that our group will be returning to take advantage of the still valid permits for the 2017 season.
I have quite a lot of thoughts on the general outlook of Himalayan climbing, part of which are personal and part professional. It is great to see the demand continue to grow, I just caution people to take steps to gain the appropriate experience in order to really have a chance at climbing big Himalayan peaks safely.
In this day and age, a lot of people want instant gratification, as evidenced by the race to be the fastest to do a big series of climbs like the 7 summits or other objectives. That is great, but mountaineering is not a race, the whole idea of climbing used to be enjoying the process and experience.
As a guide, I still consider each climber on an individual basis, ask what their objective is and determine how set up for success they are.
ExplorersWeb: Discovery ran a documentary on yours and Eric's North Pole expedition - how did that go? What was the feedback?
Ryan: It was aired on Animal Planet which is part of Discovery Communications, and we had a lot of fun seeing that story finally unfold on the T.V. screens. We had a watch party in Boulder and had a lot of fun reliving the expedition with people. We got a lot of positive feedback from people all over the place who watched it.
I thought the production company did a fantastic job of using the footage to tell the whole story. The secret was that you did not have to inject drama into that, the expedition has enough just in itself.
ExplorersWeb: You have been around so much, Everest last year during the quake, on a ton of other 8000ers, the poles etc. What are the 5-7 top products you could recommend that were really useful out there, and that also could come handy closer to home? Anything from clothing to gear to tech!
Ryan: Yes I have got around over the years... and the time spent on expeditions all over the world provide valuable knowledge of what works.
The top products that I recommend on various types of trips would be: Zeal Optics sunglasses and goggles for town, climbing or skiing.
MSR Stoves for any kind of trip. The XGK and Whisperlite stoves are the work horses of mountain and polar trips.
For communications, I am really enjoying the Iridium GO, it is easy to use, compact and great for keeping in contact via smartphone for calls and dispatches.
I really like Black Diamond clothing for Mountain Professionals guide staff, the Dawn Patrol series for soft-shell and the Hot Forge insulation jackets are awesome.
The Powertraveller Explorer 2 is a great charging system for small devices.
And for footwear: The La Sportiva Spantik boots are the go to alpine climbing boots for varying altitudes and guiding.
Ryan is also the first American to do the North Pole and South Pole full ski routes unassisted & no resupplies, and the first American to do the "Three Poles" with the South Pole and North Pole full routes unassisted unsupported, according to The Rules of Adventure on AdventureStats. In 2010 Ryan, with K2 survivor Norwegian Cecilie Skog, became the first (and only to date) to complete an unsupported unassisted crossing of Antarctica.
The American climber survived K2 himself, during a different ascent, and countless other close calls, including a plane hijack in Russia.
You can join Ryan Waters (if you dare) on cool climbs and expeditions through his Mountain Professionals outfit.
Climbers' Quake Efforts: Exweb interview with Ryan Waters, "The young are creating a movement for change"
Boulder climber Ryan Waters after Caucasus plane hijack attempt: "All is OK"
Top North Pole Tips: Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen, Class of 2014
ExWeb interview with Ryan Waters, I have discovered that the polar pioneers were unbelievably determined and adventurous
ExWeb interview with Ryan Waters, "the North Pole is like going into battle”
North Pole success: Ryan Waters and Eric Larsen arrived at the 90ºN!