The AT50: Alpinist Kyle Dempster (#31)
Sports: Alpine Climbing, Ice Climbing
Highlights: First ascent of Mt. Edgar's east face (2010, Piolet d'Or nomination); first ascents on Parkistan's K7 (2012) and Ogre (2012, Piolet d'Or nomination); first ascent of China's Xuelian West (2009, Piolet d'Or); months-long bicycle and climbing trip across Asia (2011)
Quote: "Being out there by myself in this sacred place that took my cousin’s life—it really allowed me to find the continuation to be like, 'Yes, this what I want to do.'"
Fact: Dempster climbs with 9.66 fingers, after frostbite claimed part of his ring finger in Pakistan.
AT50 Point Total: 39
Kyle Dempster is the biggest-time alpine mountaineer you've never heard of. Maybe it's because he keeps such a low profile between climbing trips, living in the same house where he grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and running a small coffee shop. But last year alone he climbed the North Buttress of Alaska's Mount Hunter twice in a single week and put up new routes on K7 and Ogre (for which he just received his third Piolet d'Or—French for "Golden Ice Axe"—climbing award nomination), in Pakistan. The year before, he spent months exploring Kyrgyzstan, China and Pakistan by bicycle and putting up huge first ascents of obscure, mysterious mountains along the way.
Dempster, who began climbing with a seat belt for a top rope anchor at the age of 12, climbs with classic alpine style, assaulting hard-to-access mountains with long approaches by his own power. For him, climbing is a spiritual and introspective journey that he pursues as passionately today as when he first discovered it as a kid. He's also an ice climber and a long-distance cyclist, taking after his father, who's never owned a car in his life.