Out and Back

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Alpinist Adrian Ballinger has made a career of climbing the Himalaya’s 8,000-meter giants. Since 2008, he’s summited Mount Everest eight times, including once without supplemental oxygen. He has also climbed other lofty and daring peaks in the region like K2, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, and Manaslu.

In this fun and lighthearted chat, Ballinger speaks openly with Shanty and Mary about overcoming family and societal pressure in order to live a life that's true to yourself, and he also talks about the challenges/realities of guiding clients up the world’s highest mountains.

But it's not all just earthquakes, avalanches, mountain politics, and global warming. Ballinger also takes us to a fateful encounter on the side of Mount Everest, where he met the love of his life, professional climber Emily Harrington. The couple got engaged last year, and are looking at a December 2021 wedding. Ballinger gives us a peak of what “normal” life is like for these two climbing celebrities.

Show Notes

Learn more about how you can explore in the mountains with Ballinger’s company Alpenglow Expeditions.

Follow Ballinger on his Instagram page and watch his and Emily's YouTube channel DangerstikTV for some real-life Adrian/Emily entertainment.

Watch Breathtaking, a documentary about Ballinger’s climb on K2 without supplemental oxygen.

Finally, make sure to check out the Out and Back Instagram Page!

Remember, podcast listeners can get UP TO 50% OFF ON A GAIA GPS MEMBERSHIP!

Episode Highlights:
4:05: Adrian was born in England and grew up in Massachusetts. 
5:15: Adrian credits luck, mentors, and his cool mom for getting him into climbing. 
7:00: His parents taught him and his sister to be willing to try anything, but they weren’t too excited about Ballinger taking up rock climbing at a young age. Even still, Ballinger’s mom bought him his first rack.
9:45: Adrian graduated from Georgetown University and was poised to go to medical school, when he put the breaks on and took a gap year, to get the “mountains out of his system.” 
13:10: He never went back to school, picked up some sponsors, and kept climbing mountains.
15:15: Mount Everest caught Adrian’s attention when he was a teenager, and he read everything about it and was totally obsessed.
17:10: Guiding was the only way Adrian could afford to summit Everest, and he has now summited Mount Everest eight times — once without oxygen supplementation.
21:00: Many challenges can interrupt an Everest expedition, including icefall, earthquakes, politics, and even the Olympics. 
23:45: It costs $85,000 to go to Everest with Adrian Ballinger and his qualified guides with Alpenglow Expeditions.
25:15: Cheaper trips skimp on experienced guides, safety equipment, and extra oxygen.
28:20: The crux of Everest lies in the sustained effort it takes to climb the mountain over 30 days.
31:30: Adrian wasn’t sure if he could summit Everest without supplemental oxygen, and that unknown drew him to try. 
33:45: The first attempt without oxygen didn’t go well and Adrian had to retreat just 600 feet from the summit.
37:40: Adrian went back and summited without oxygen, but doesn’t remember it because he was blacked out from the lack of oxygen.
38:22: Adrian went on to summit K2 without supplemental oxygen, and just being 600 feet lower made all the difference. 
41:30: K2 is a more remote, technical, and dangerous climb than its taller sister, Everest. The team ran into all kinds of troubles, but pushed through and summited in perfect conditions.
51:20: Adrian describes the effects of climate change on the world’s tallest mountains, and here’s what we can do to make a difference. 
57:15: Adrian Ballinger is engaged to professional climber Emily Harrington. 
57:45: Last fall, Emily became the first woman to climb El Capitan’s Golden Gate route in a 24-hour period. She joins the very short list of climbers -- Tommy Caldwell, the late Brad Golight, and Alex Honnold — who have accomplished this feat. 
59:00: Adrian had the honor to belay Emily on a portion of the route, and he describes a big fall she took and how she got through that and pushed on. 
1:04:30: Emily and Adrian manage the risks of being professional climbers by talking through their objectives very carefully. 
1:06:20: When Adrian and Emily are home in Tahoe City, Calif., life is filled with laundry and chores, and they cherish the “normal” times because they rarely get them. 
1:07:15: Adrian tells the story about how he first met Emily at 21,000 feet on Mount Everest. He offered her a coffee. 
1:10:05: What’s next? Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington are planning a wedding in December. 

What is Out and Back?

In the Out and Back Podcast presented by Gaia GPS, thru-hiker Andrew “Shanty” Baldwin, professional guide/outdoorswoman Mary "Hiker Midnight" Cochenour, and professional athlete Abby Levene dive deep into conversation with long-distance hikers, record-breaking athletes, offroad travelers who sold everything to live full-time on the dusty backroads, and other awesome guests who have mastered their backcountry craft.

In every show, Shanty, Mary, and Abby tap into each backcountry expert’s superpower so you can take their experience and knowledge with you on your next adventure.