August 31, 2011, 8:42 am / Categories: Climbing
Swiss climbing company Mammut Sports Group calls it “The Biggest Peak Project in History,” and the superlative title describes a year-long project Mammut launched in July to organize 150 mountain climbs around the world. Part marketing stunt, part celebration of its 150-year company anniversary — and fully a collective gear test beyond any recent compare — the Biggest Peak project is noteworthy if for nothing else its scale and sheer audacity in the world of mountain climbing this year.
In late July, early in the morning and hours before sunrise, I roped up and climbed into thinning air en route to the top of Mönch, a 13,474-foot peak in the Swiss Alps. The ascent was part of Mammut’s debut Biggest Peak expedition on the Aletsch glacier, Switzerland’s largest sheet of ice and an epic spot below Mönch, Jungfrau, and the Eiger.
From the icy base camp, a group of 200+ people, including Mammut staffers, mountain guides, athletes, and journalists, reveled in the snowy bliss. We celebrated the company’s 150 years, the mountains around us, and just being alive. Rows of bright red expedition tents and giant inflatable structures dotted the glacier. A sound system pumped club music well into the night, and we partied, ate Swiss cheese and drank Italian wine to the backdrop of the Bernese Alps.
It was day one of the extravagant mountaintop festival. Early the next morning I’d be on Mönch. Another group would climb Jungfrau, a neighboring peak, and thus would launch “The Biggest Peak Project in History.”
On my climb up Mönch, in the predawn dark, I kicked steps into the snow, crampons biting through to ice. Our route flip-flopped between snowy slogs and exposed rocky scrambles until we reached the final knife ridge.
A couple hours in, on a high ridge, the sun finally peeked up — a thin glowing line on the horizon in the east. “Concentrate on your feets and make good steps,” my guide yelled back in broken English.
We traversed a final ridge and the summit came into view. Excitement and adrenaline surged in me, and I quickly forgot about my tired legs and my altitude-affected head. We were in the Alps at sunrise, over 13,000 feet high, and I was yards from the top of the most beautiful summit I had ever seen.
—GearJunkie contributing editor T.C. Worley made it to the top of Mönch, one of the 150 peaks in a project Mammut is organizing this year. The company is currently seeking climbers around the world to participate in expeditions and day climbs. Go to this page on Mammut’s website to apply to be on one of the remaining Mammut climbs this year.
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