Four years ago, climber/photographer Jimmy Chin clung to the upper flanks of northern India's Meru Central (6,310m), his feet bloody with frostbite. "Maybe this just wasn't meant to be climbed," he said, looking defeatedly into a camera held by friend and teammate Renan Ozturk, "but I'm not coming back." It was a hard thing to say, but in retrospect nobody could blame him. For 19 straight days, he and Ozturk and trip leader Conrad Anker had pushed up the near-vertical Shark's Fin route, surviving off of only eight days of food because a horrendous storm dumped six feet of snow, pinning them down and shutting down much of the Himalaya. And now, just two pitches and roughly 150 meters shy of the summit, they were giving up. They didn't have the big-wall kit necessary to aid-climb the super technical upper reaches, and nobody was sure how much longer their strength could hold up.
But the Shark's Fin would continue to haunt the trio. One of the most sought-after routes in the Himalaya, dozens of teams had attempted it and failed. It was a 20-year project for Anker, one that he described as "climbing to the center of the universe" and which he wasn't quite ready to give up on. Last September, they were back in India, clinging to the mountain at the source of the Ganges. This time they came prepared with equipment for technical and alpine ice and rock, as well as a big-wall kit. Indra, the Hindu god of storms, smiled upon them. And, after a 12-day push, they made the summit. Ozturk, talented filmmaker that he is, filmed the whole thing and will soon release the film Return to Meru to tell the story. From the looks of it, it's going to be nearly as epic as the climb.