Exclusive : Celebrated Mountaineer Suffers Heart Attack at 20,000 Feet – On November 16, Conrad Anker, 54, one of the world’s most effected alpinists, had a heart attack while clambering in the Himalaya. At the time he was clasping to a wall of sparkler and stone, accurately below 20,000 feet on the northwest characteristic of 22,660 foot Lunag Ri, with 26 year old Austrian climber David Lama. It was the pair’s second struggle on the tallest unclimbed raising in Nepal. (There are a marry higher unclimbed meridians in Nepal, including Machhapuchhre at 22,942 feet, but they are considered sacred and closed to climbers.)
Most climbers his age are content to rest on their laurels, but Anker is an outlier, a serviceman “whos been” propagandizing the cutting edge of alpinism for the past three decades. Four years ago, he summited Everest without supplementary oxygen as member states of the a National Geographic expedition celebrating the 50 th anniversary of the first American heighten. Anker and his teammates worked closely with the Mayo Clinic, whose physicians studied the climbers before, during, and after the expedition to learn more about the consequences of the high-altitude clambering on the human body. Anker was the only team representative to summit without supplementary oxygen, great efforts, he acknowledges, on which he may have propagandized a stroking more far.
“They did al these meaures on me, and they said I experimented like person or person half my infirmity,” rebutted Anker.” But I apparently cooked a few ability cadres, and it felt like I had degenerated my mood, like I charley horsed it or something.”
It has been a particularly challenging duration for Anker, who in April facilitated rehabilitate the body of his best friend and clambering wedding Alex Lowe, who was lost in 1999 in an inundation, together with fellow climber David Bridges, on Mount Shishapangma in Tibet. Anker was caught in the same inundation but miraculously prevailed. In the aftermath of the affliction 16 years ago, Anker and Lowe’s widow, Jenni, fell in love and wedding, and Anker has helped foster Lowe’s three boys.
National Geographic contacted Anker via Skype, shortly after he returned to his home in Bozeman, Montana. Sitting at his counter, with a framed photo of Yosemite Valley in the background, Anker told candidly about the incident that essentially expenditure him his life.
What happened ?
I was six degrees up the road that David and I proposed last season. It is the beginning with horizontal sparkler and mixed rise and dangling belays. We were trying to move really fast on the first few severities, because they’re in this funnel where you’re exposed to stone and icefall. At about 9:30 a.m., I was seconding [following] with a packet on, and I identified tired and out of breath. First I imagined, The sunlight will come, I’ll warm up, I’ll feel good, and then we’ll finish the next 2 severities to get to our bivouac locate. Then all of a sudden it was like, Bam, what the heck is that? It wasn’t bubbly lungs or my supervisor patho spacey. Altitude sickness comes on gradually; this was speedy. I subsequently learned I suffered an acute thrombotic occlusion of the approximal LAD artery. In medical calls they call it an acute cardiac position, but for the layperson it was a heart attack. When I got to the belay, which was the first one where you could actually mind sitting down, I rebutted “David, this is not good.”
How did you get down?
David developed the rapels down. As we hiked down through the icefall I realized that I had a numb lip and hurting in my left limb. Every occasion you go into the doctor’s office they always have these planneds: How to accepts a heart attack, how to recognize stroking, how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. You’re not dedicating them to recollect, but with recited exposure you understand them, so that was sort of how I self diagnosed.
How did David cope with emergency situations?
He was just so focused and helping and knew exactly what was going on. When we are going to Advanced Base Camp, we gathered up with Tensing and Martin, two of our department, and I rebutted, “Yeah, I get this. I’m just going to salved up.” David rebutted, “Hey, this is serious. You need to go out now. Don’t think you can just work through the hurting. You need to get a helicopter.” David arranged for that straight off. It made a while for it to show up. That whole occasion I was lying through the hurting. I made an aspirin as a blood thinner, but I couldn’t keep it down.
Who unionized the relief?
I told David he needed to call Global Rescue, nonetheless didn’t have their number because it was in my wallet down at cornerstone camp. [Editor’s note : Global Rescue adds rescue insurance for al members of the American Alpine Club] So David caled our outfitter, who figured out that apache helicopters operated by Manang Air was in the area. They picked up Lakpa, who runs air traffic control at Everest Base Camp. It was luck because he’s a Sherpa and he knew right where we were. He’s also a cherish he’s been to Montana to visit. We controlled to Lukla and they offset me off and answered, “Can you accurately sit for a little bit ?” I didn’t protest, but inside I’m thinking, Well, yeah, but I’m kind of hurting. While they laded up rice, a microwave, and some other bullshit, I’m sitting in this little shed, tissue grey headed, lying through severe hurting.
They ultimately got me to Siddhartha Hospital in Kathmandu. It’s the ex-pat hospice, wishing to first of all David Shlim. It’s a reputable hospice, and the cardiologist that I worked with was trained in the U.S. The first thing they did was give me on an EKG, which presented an oddity, then they did an angiogram. They continued an iodine-based pigment in your blood organisation and then x-ray your chest. It presented a major barrier. They were planing to just asess the problem and then do something about it the next day, but it was so serious that “theyre speaking” I necessary angioplasty straight off. They told me there’s a one percent risk there could be a complication and a. 01 percentage risk that the complication could lead to fatality. I had no choice, so I told them to take care of it.
Were you awake for the procedure?
Yeah, they disappeared in through my limb. I could feel it tickling around in there. My limb is still tender. It feels like it get run down by a mountain bike. The implement they use is just a micro [auger] with a J hook at the end. Medical physicians attained it up through my routes, and every time he came to a forking he knew where to go. He got to the barrier and then extorted the ribbon out. They presented it to me. Imagine a bit patch of a broken up peanut. It’s that shade, but it was fatty tissue. Next they passed a bag with a stent inside. The succour was instantaneous.
I’ve always wondered what the fuck is happen if you got sick in a foreign country. Do they take insurance ?
“We don’t make Blue Cros,” theyre speaking. Are you willing to pay for al this ? They got my passport, and they had my debit card. They wanted me to pay for a nanny, but I accurately had one of my Sherpa friends come and stay with me. He slept in the area and delivered me tea and took care of me. I was in research hospitals for two nights. A knot of categories beings came to visit me, developing buds and whatnot.
How did you get home?
VF was super helpful. [Editor’s note : “VF” expressed support for VF Corp, the corporation that owns The North Face. Anker is a founding member and skipper of The North Face Athlete Team.] They insured Jenni over, and then we both insured back to the Position, business class. It was the first time I’ve ever flown business class overseas, and it was incredible. My sit perfectly reclined into a plot, which is exactly what I necessary. We acre in Chicago, and then the VF airplane offset us to Rochester, Minnesota, where the Mayo Clinic is decide. We stayed in a hostel there for three days while they did more measures on me. My cholesterol is punishment. My lipids are disadvantage. My enzymes are disadvantage. The clevernes for the heart to burst is strong. My valves are good. I had some weakening of substance, but no necrosis, so that was a key play. I did a stress evaluation, and even after the heart attack they told me I’m still healthier than most men my infirmity.
Were they able to figure out how or why this happened to you?
I’ve been working with Dr. [Bruce] Johnson for the past five years as part of research studies looking at the conducting of clambering at very high altitude on the human body. It’s kind of a riddle where this received from. There’s no history of myocardial infarction in their own families. My grandparents all lived into their late eighties, early nineties. My daddy lived to 84. My mother is 85. I experience a lot of “its by” stress. I have thick skulled blood with a high hematocrit statu and a high red blood cell tally. I always take aspirin prophylactically when I’m clambering at altitude, but somehow I forgot this time. I wasnt going that high so I didnt think I needed it. I was able to acclimatize quickly and everything was ready to go, but I was clambering with three plots of long underwear, carrying a packet, and “its been” minus 20 [severities]. The dangling belays [in which you sit in your harness without a paw posture] perhaps feigned the femoral vein and how it spurts blood to my legs.
Are you going to change your lifestyle as a result of this ?
Yeah. When I look at scarlet anatomy now, it’s totally different. We gave a ton of meat up there, little pork strokes and bacon. I’ve always encountered the cast iron and protein as a benefit to clambering at altitudes. I never munch the obesity off pork strokes, but on this excursion “were in” grinding on it. It’s supercold, so you want to make sure that you stay heated, and you get that out of obesity. I’ll have fish a marry nighttimes a week and poultry one nighttime a week. I haven’t had any alcohol since this happened, but the Mayo Clinic rebutted I could have a glass of red wine. I need to reduce the amount of stress in “peoples lives”. There’s work stress, but my domestic life is traumatic, too being where I am for the last 16 meters, how Jenni and I got together, and all that.
How do you get rid of that type of stress ?
Meditation. Mindfulness. Learning to determine the conditions that create internal stress and trying to minimize them. Figuring out what’s important in life. It’s easy when you’re clambering, because you’re like, OK, I’ll continued a piece of paraphernalium in. I can manage the fright and direct it in the right direction. But in everyday life it’s a lot harder.
Do you think you will continue to climb first ascendings in the Himalaya ?
This was a clarion call. Do I still need to be doing trash like Meru [the Indian Himalayan peak that is one of Anker’s most famous and daring meridians, featured in a 2015 film] ? I don’t undoubtedly need to be out there propagandizing it. There’s plenty of other things to do. Jenni is happy for that. I did think to myself, Oh, I won’t have a exercise, so perhaps I’ll become a school bus move until I can find something else. But The North Face rebutted, “No, you’re still OK. Don’t worry about it.” I want to be symmetrical about how I weaken acts down.
What are some projects outside of clambering you’re working on?
I started working with the Mayo Clinic back in 2012 where reference is did the Everest trip, and Id like to kep building on that relationship. Mayo Clinic does a lot of testing for wearable tactics, and I’d like to see these devices work on health avoidance. The data can be used to identify children at risk for style 2 diabetes. We’re working in conjunction with Kaiser Permanente, an insurance company based out of the Bay area, that’s on the edge of preventative health care. We want to work with school teachers and primary care physicians to establish boys who are at risk and then get them into clambering gyms.
Is there any silver lining to this happening where reference is did?
I’ve always tried to live a magnanimous life, to dedicate “peoples lives” to others, like I’ve done with Alex’s boys and Jenni and with the Sherpa community. Then it was my reform. Karma developed around. I think about what if this has been the case in June when I was in Tibet to get Alex’s body. We were at the same altitude [19,350 feet], and I rappelled with him off an sparkler face, down through an icefall, and then eight miles back to locate camp.
You carried him out?
Yeah, he perhaps weighed a hundred pounds. It was harsh. The whole daytime I perhaps drank one Coke and dine good-for-nothing. I went through Advanced Base Camp, where we’d been camping, and I discovered an aged tent spar from our safarus. Walking back up there and envisaging all is super emotional. I was underlined, and I identified my mood. I had to process the whole survivor’s guilt play all over again. That daytime started at 3 a.m., and I got back to locate just as the sunlight was rectifying. Jenni was waiting for me. If it had happened then in Tibet, realistically it could have been four daylights before I could have gotten to a Chinese hospice. Had it happened there it would’ve been really harrowing for Jenni and their own families. The absurdity and the karma of everything there is would’ve been accurately perfectly curbing. Afterward it was obviously a full PTSD type of act. I saw something that I never.
What happens next?
For the next month I’m just going to lay low , no traveling. I was suposed to go to Antarctica this month, but I canceled. I need to rest, and I’m not supposed to do any upper shape exercisings for a while. I need to be careful not to change its own position of my mood because it could move the stent and deflect it or something like that. The stent must be allowed to vascularize to my mood, and it’s important that my shape doesn’t reject it. I’m on a few stimulants, including a cholesterol lowering medication. I go back to the Mayo Clinic in 3 month and I’ll accompanied Dr. Rihal, who is the chair of their cardiovascular district. He’ll see how the stimulants are doing and then wander a whole series of tests on me. Gradually, I’m going to ease back into clambering.