Climbing to the 29,029-foot summit of Mt. Everest is never an easy feat. It requires supreme dedication, uncompromising focus and peak physical conditioning, not to mention near perfect weather conditions and a healthy dose of luck. But one mountaineer attempting to summit the world’s tallest peak this spring is taking a novel approach to his Everest expedition. He plans to maximize his chances for success by going as slow as possible, even hoping to set a “slowest ever” speed record in the process.
Climber Bob “Gnarly” Goldstein says that most people who attempt Everest spend several weeks on the mountain acclimatizing for altitude before eventually making a four-day summit push. Along the way, they stay at a series of high camps that allow them to rest at various altitudes before proceeding higher. Eventually this puts them in position to go all the way to the top. Bob’s approach will be similar, although rather than staying at predetermined campsites along the way, he’ll simply make camp where ever he feels like it.
“I figure I’ll set out each day with no particular distance goal in mind,” Goldstein says. “I’ll walk until I get tired, then set up camp for another night. That may mean I walk for eight hours or eight steps, but I won’t be in any real hurry.”
Over the past decade or so, there has been a movement in the mountaineering community to go faster and lighter on some of the world’s most iconic peaks, including Everest. The speed record on the Himalayan peak is an astounding eight hours and 10 minutes and was set by Pemba Dorje Sherpa back in 2004. But no one has made a concerted effort to actually go slower – at least not until now.”Time will definitely not be of the essence,” Goldstein says. “It may take me days or even weeks to walk to the summit.”
This isn’t the first time Goldstein has attempted to shift paradigms in the world of extreme sports. In 2011 he announced his intention to ride a mountain bike to the summit of Everest, an endeavor that ended with a flat tire in Base Camp. “I didn’t think to bring a spare,” he says sheepishly. He followed that up last year with his attempt to kayak over the biggest waterfall on each continent, something he called the “Seven Plummets.” That adventure also met with failure when Bob nearly drowned attempting to complete an Eskimo roll in his neighbor’s swimming pool. “Turns out I don’t really like water all that much,” he notes.
This year he seems confident that his approach to climbing Everest will meet with success. He says he plans to spend a week or two in Base Camp before he starts up the slopes, but after that he has no timetable for when he’ll complete the expedition. “It may take me three or four days just to cross the Khumbu Icefall,” he says, referencing one of the more dangerous portions of the climb. Nearly everyone else will try to pass that section as quickly as possible but not Goldstein. “I hear it’s really scary there and I don’t do well when I get scared.”
Bob says he’s been training for this attempt for sometime. Knowing that he may have to set up his tent just about anywhere on the mountain, he has been practicing doing everything while on a slope, including sleeping and cooking his meals. “I’ve been living on the staircase in my home for the past month,” he says. “It’s been hard on the back, but in the long run it’ll prove beneficial for spending days on end on the Lhotse Face.”
He also says he’s been practicing doing everything very, very slowly. “I’m taking this record very seriously,” he tells me. “I intend to set the bar so low that no one will ever think about challenging it. I might be up there for two or three months, just enjoying the view.”
Dare to Dream, Bob. Dare to dream.