Last season on Everest, Eddie Bauer First Ascent guide Dave Hahn climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest for a record 14th time, more times than any other Westerner. Yesterday he increased his statistical record to 15, and 12th successful climb during a 12-year stretch. This Everest super guide has been called “The King of Patience” because of his calculated approach, yet his perspective on the peak has shifted since Everest summit number one.As he descends to base camp with Eddie Bauer guide Seth Waterfall, we’re running a short interview with Hahn captured on the mountain after his 14th summit last season. –LYA Editor
Images by Kent Harvey and Jake Norton
How do you describe your experience guiding on Everest?
We put in our time. We take our risks. We do our work. We try to be really smart about it. We try to be canny about when we go for the top. But ultimately, we have to get lucky if we’re going to get to the top and if we’re going to get down safely. There is some luck to it—that is the Everest game in a nutshell. We’re all a little bit nuts to keep playing this game and thinking we can keep getting lucky.
What changes have you seen on Everest since your first season?
It’s tough to say what’s normal anymore in these high mountain areas and living on a glacier. It’s all in flux. I can’t tell you that this is climate change without some greater framework. But in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen drastic melting of these glaciers.
If that makes the climbing more difficult, well, that’s a drag. But the far bigger drag is seeing up close and personal exactly what the scientists are talking about. These glaciers are going away and the climate is getting warmer.
What is the future of Everest climbing?
It’s tough to predict the future of Everest climbing because it’s such a personal thing. But I have to say that, for me, running through my head the whole time is that mountain being the symbol of what is going on in the Himalaya. I mean, the glacier I was sitting on was just dissolving. It was just melting away. It was just evaporating.
On the Khumbu Glacier, there’s no accumulation zone anymore. There is no part of the glacier that’s receiving more snow than is melting in a year. And that’s been illustrated to me very graphically—going to the top of the mountain, the snow is virtually melting off the summit of Everest.
It’s pretty hard to be in those mountains, to be in the Western Cwm and not relate to climate change. And to not think ahead to another ten years of this drought or another 20 years or another 50 years of this drought.
What is it like staying patient and watching big groups leave the South Col during the first weather window when you are guiding?
I’d love to say or have the world believe that I’m some oracle or have this wisdom. It’s almost comical. My friends and fellow guides on Everest kept coming over to me to see what I was going to do because I’ve got this streak, because I’ve summited this number of times [in a row]. But I knew I didn’t have all the answers. I only knew I was more scared of screwing up than I was at coming down without a summit.
What is the significance of the record climb on Everest?
There were climbs in my career, some of those numbers where I just went up against that mountain, pulled my way through, made a bunch of mistakes and just came through it anyway. And man, I deserved that number.
I’d love for the world to think I still do that on summit number 14, but let’s face it, I get by with a little help from my friends and I try to make it as easy, as painless and as safe as I possibly can. And so yes, that number one is equal to the number 14, but not really.
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