Next month, Cory Richards and Esteban ‘Topo’ Mena will attempt to summit Everest along a route that has ‘never been touched by humans before.’
The world has not seen a new route up Earth’s highest peak in a decade. That could change this year if National Geographic photographer Cory Richards, of Colorado, and climbing partner Esteban “Topo” Mena, of Ecuador, attempt to summit Mt. Everest from a path no one has set foot on before.
“It’s not about getting to the top. It’s not about winning gold. It’s about the whole process, and the refinement and the reduction that allows you to get back to that place, and hopefully execute in a meaningful way,” Richards teased in an interview with ROAM Media to announce the attempt.
Richards and ROAM also launched the first video in a series that will document his preparation and planning. Check it out below.
Mena, Richards: New Route Up Everest
Together, Mena and Richards have six Everest summits under their belts — including ascents without the use of supplemental oxygen.
According to Richards, the pair observed and contemplated the new route during previous Everest expeditions. The route up is a couloir that runs up from Advance Base Camp about 6,500 feet up along the northeast face of Everest.
Climbing on the Tibetan side of Everest, the duo will scale the face between the frequently climbed Northeast Ridge and rarely climbed Integral Northeast Ridge before joining the normal route above 27,000 feet.
Richards told Himalayan expert Alan Arnet that the team is “adaptable” depending on conditions.
“If snow conditions prove too unstable for whatever reason, the buttress that bisects the two prominent couloirs is also an option,” he said.
“It’s obvious, and it’s sort of weird that nobody has ever climbed it. It’s an anomaly, because it truly is like this line in the sky. It goes directly up the center of this face,” he told ROAM.
That same route nearly saw an attempt in 2015 by Raphael Slawinski, David Goettler, and Daniel Bartsch. But the massive earthquake that disrupted Everest’s climbing season turned the trio away.
Based on his observations, Richards sees the crux of the route at about 27,000 feet. There, he and Mena will encounter “several hundred feet of technical, mixed climbing … that will be incredibly strenuous.”
“If anything goes wrong there,” Richards said, “you’re done.”
If they can navigate that aspect, the two will intersect with the normal route and continue to the summit. Richards and Mena will begin their new route up Everest in April when the spring climbing season begins.