Skip to main content

Two bad-ass climbers scale Everest without extra oxygen, share it all on social media

A case could be made that a pair of professional climbers suffered from a lack of oxygen to their brains even before their recent ascent up Mount Everest.

Mountain climber Adrian Ballinger and professional photographer Cory Richards are slowly returning to Everest base camp in Tibet. The two not only climbed the world’s tallest mountain, but did it without extra oxygen. They continue to share that incredible experience through their individual Strava accounts and the EverestNoFilter account on Snapchat.

Richards hit the summit of Mount Everest early Tuesday without using any extra oxygen. Ballinger was forced to stop just 1,200 feet shy of the summit. Ballinger told CBS, “I wasn’t hydrating that well, I wasn’t eating that well …  I knew I was already getting up where I wouldn’t be able to get myself down alone if I went any further.”

So Richards forged ahead, tearing up the last push to the summit. “I got to the top in just about eight hours after leaving High Camp …,” Richards said before Ballinger cut in, adding, “Which is, like, insanely fast for a no-oxygen attempt. He was actually passing people on oxygen.”

“I got on top and spent about three minutes there … was it. My body felt horrible, like I had the worst hangover of my life,” Richards said.

Ballinger was a little bummed not to have made it all the way, but he’s alive to tell the tale. “It kinda sucks, but I was just happy to get down alive and for Cory to succeed,” he said. Ballinger runs Alpenglow Expeditions and has already reached the summit of Everest six times, though this would have been his first without supplemental oxygen.

In Richards’  summit post on Instagram, he quoted Aristotle: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,’ ” He continued: “I think that’s absolutely true in this partnership. … His decision to turn around early allowed me to summit.”

They survived some rough patches during their journey — as if Everest on its calmest day wasn’t rough enough.

“It’s not easy, the air gets very thin about 25,000 feet,” Ballinger said. Everest’s summit sits at 29,000 feet.

To reach it without oxygen, the two men had to acclimate to the altitude, which meant returning to base camp to recover between trips up the mountain. Richards explained, “We go up on the mountain for two to four, maybe five days at a time to let our bodies adapt to that altitude.”

Ballinger and Richards weathered a brutal storm on Everest’s northeast face, withstanding winds of nearly 50 miles an hour. But the weather cleared. The day after the storm, they hit the death zone: 26,000 feet.

“As you go higher, your body just simply can’t regenerate,” Richards said. “The margin for error drops to zero. If you screw up, you die.”

They checked in regularly via radio with the doctor stationed at base camp to make sure there were no serious signs of oxygen deprivation — no slurred words or rambling incoherence.

As to why they wanted to do it without oxygen, Ballinger said it’s been a dream for him his entire life. Fewer than 3 percent of climbers even make the attempt without oxygen. This was Richards’ first Everest summit, but he has been documenting climbs via social media for years, including his close brush with death in an avalanche in Pakistan.

According to Strava, the trip was really grueling. Strava shows Richards’ and Ballinger’s heart rate, distance traveled, altitude, speed, and route, among other variables. Their heart rate zone analysis showed 159 beats per minute — an extreme suffer score. Their profiles are flooded with encouragement and congratulations.

On Instagram and Snapchat, their #HairbyEverest hashtag is a funny example of the raw, unedited footage of their journey.

“The whole point of EverestNoFilter is to give you sort of an unfiltered picture of the whole thing.” Richards said. “We can’t make the pictures pretty, we can’t, you know, edit the video, it’s just instantaneous.”

They used their cell phones to document the trip.

“We’ve got a heater and a satellite internet terminal. Set it up, get it connected to the satellite, then sit here and press retry, retry, retry, on Snapchat until it finally goes,” Ballinger said.

Ballinger and Richards are on their way back down with all their fingers and toes. Unfortunately, other climbers have not been so successful recently. Six climbers attempting to summit died in less than a week: A 25-year-old Nepalese guide fell to his death, while three other climbers — from Australia, the Netherlands , and India — are believed to have died from altitude sickness, which happens when water collects in the lungs and brain, causing people to drown 29,000 feet above sea level. On Monday, two other Indian climbers’ bodies were discovered.

More than 260 people have died attempting to reach the summit of the world’s tallest mountain.

Aliya Barnwell
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Aliya Tyus-Barnwell is a writer, cyclist and gamer with an interest in technology. Also a fantasy fan, she's had fiction…
Visible’s affordable 5G plans just got even cheaper
The Visible logo on a smartphone.

Visible has a new offer that can help you save significant money when switching to its service. Both Visible and Visible+ packages are now available for purchase upfront on an annual basis. These new annual plans are available for new Visible customers starting today, while existing customers will gain access to them this May.

With this new deal, the Visible+ plan costs $395 per year when paid upfront instead of $540 when paid in 12 monthly installments of $45 each. This means you can save $145, which is 26%. That's an incredible savings. When paying upfront for the regular Visible plan, it will cost $275 per year, saving you $25. If you pay for it monthly, the standard Visible plan costs $25 per month (or $300 per year).

Read more
iPhone SE 4: news, rumored price, release date, and more
The Apple iPhone SE (2022) and Apple iPhone SE (2020) together.

While the spotlight always seems to be on Apple’s mainline iPhones, the iPhone SE is a great pick for those who are on a budget. If you want an iPhone that doesn't break the bank, the SE is the way to go.

The original iPhone SE came out in 2016, and then Apple revamped it in 2020 and 2022 by giving it some more modern hardware. The iPhone SE tends to get updated every two or so years rather than annually like the traditional iPhone. This means  that we should see a new iPhone SE 4 this year, but it’s not so cut-and-dried with this particular model.

Read more
Hurry! This Apple Watch just had its price slashed to $189
The app grid view on the Apple Watch SE 2.

For great smartwatch deals, head to Amazon immediately. Today, it has the Apple Watch SE (2nd gen) for $60 off bringing it down to just $189 from $249. A fantastic price for an exceptionally well-made smartwatch, this tops our list of the best Apple deals right now. If you’re keen to buy a watch that will motivate you to move more while also looking good, check it out by tapping the button below. Alternatively, read on while we explain all.

Why you should buy the Apple Watch SE (2nd gen)
One of the best smartwatches around, the Apple Watch SE (2nd gen) is best described as “simple, cheap, and brilliant”. It’s designed to help you exercise more effectively, while keeping connected with your digital life, and also staying safe.

Read more