Unclimbed Himalayan Peaks For Clients: A New Sales Strategy?

Some outfitters are trying to overcome the negative perception of commercial climbing — the crowding, littering, casualties, inexperienced clients, and recent controversies over record claims — by seeking out new, more attractive products. These include first ascents of slightly lower peaks.

This fall, a small Madison Mountaineering team climbed an unnamed, unclimbed 6,000’er. All the clients in this select group had previously summited Ama Dablam on Nov. 5 as part of a larger team.

Already acclimatized, they and some Sherpas then headed for the second mountain. The Sherpas fixed ropes and set up a single high camp. In the end, the team didn’t need that stopover but summited in a single, 12-hour push on Nov. 14.

“The route was a combination of steep and exposed rock, and snow along a ridgeline, culminating in a tower at the top,” leader Garrett Madison explained.

Topo of the route

The new route opened by Madison Mountaineering. Photo: Garrett Madison


“The new route is 1,400m long at 5.6 to 5.8,” said photographer Ted Hesser, who was shooting the climb for Mountain Hardwear. (5.6-5.8 is the U.S. equivalent of UIAA’s 5+.) Hesser had had to retreat from Ama Dablam because of health problems but recovered to climb the second peak.

At the end of the expedition, Madison was very happy with the result and was looking forward to returning next year for another commercial first ascent. As Hesser pointed out, all the surrounding peaks are unclimbed, so there are plenty of opportunities.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.