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Climbing Team Summits K2 Without Sponsorship

Posted March 7, 2006

Everest Basecamp (18,000 feet)
In an amazing feat of derring-do, two alpinists, one American and the other European, successfully summited the dreaded K2 without supplemental sponsorship. All gear used and food consumed was paid for out of their own pockets, something that hasn't even been attempted in close to thirty years.

In a sport that has left literally no stone uncovered, this bold move, to climb sponsorless, might be the final frontier of alpine exploration.

The 8000 meter peak, nicknamed K2 because even the mention of its full name might draw the wrath of a mountain demon, is considered a harder climb than Everest. Climbers Jack Long, of Leavenworth, Washington and Sherman Sharma, of Yorkshire, England, attained the summit in a thirty-seven hour push, without sherpas, supplemental oxygen, or a corporate logo to underwrite the expensive journey.

"Conventional wisdom says that if you aren't sponsored, you'll probably perish," commented freelance adventure writer Abrahm Lustgarten. "There are certain essentials the modern mountaineer cannot do without. Compass, sturdy boots, and a large athletic endorsement will get you to basecamp, although there's no guarantee you'll succeed. In ten years of covering this beat, I've never seen anything so brash."

"For several miles I didn't think we'd make it,"said Long. "I saw one climbing team on a satellite conference call with The North Face, and it made me feel like a rank amateur. I was deflated knowing that my summit attempt would never be experienced by the catalog-reading public. But the Yorkshireman at my side reminded me that he and his friends used to eat those catalogs to stay warm, and I was able to continue."

Their feat was not without controversy. Sponsored climbers Jayne Hill-Nike and Greg Asolo questioned how the two seemingly normal middle class climbers could have afforded the $60,000 climbing permit. "That was the easiest part," said Sharma. "I stopped drinking my triple-threat caramel Frappaduccio every day. You'd be surprised how quickly the savings appear."

"Both of us have REI memberships, continued Long. "And the dividend was really helpful. After buying enough gear to outfit two Himalayan expeditions, they sent us some free energy bars and socks."

"But anyone can get a membership," added his partner. "It's not an actual endorsement."

A documentary film team followed the two climbers as they negotiated the tall gleaming aisles of REI, asking endless questions about the performance of lip balm at high elevation. The gripping footage in the preview screening of the film Cold Comfort, which has remarkably not yet found distribution, shows two humble men locked in a fierce struggle with their mounting credit card debt.

There was some clear tension when it looked like their large purchase - a high altitude tent, down parkas, and beef jerky - would not go through. "My Visa was denied a few times, but the clerk let me use the phone to call my bank. They upped my credit limit, and I was able to buy some extra ice screws as well." Cold Comfort will be screened at the Banff Film Festival.



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