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Conrad Anker Returns Home After Himalayan Heart Attack

Conrad Anker is arguably one of the world’s most accomplished climbers and continues to push himself. At 54, he has a track record of big sends and near misses on alpine peaks and big walls. He was recently in the Himalayas attempting the unclimbed 6,888-metre Lunag-Ri in Nepal with David Lama, 26. The pair tried the route last winter, watch a short film of their climb below.

On Nov. 16, Anker and Lama were six pitches up the line they attempted on their first trip. “It starts out with vertical ice and mixed climbing and hanging belays,” said Anker to Mark Synnott for National Geographic in an exclusive interview. “We were trying to move really fast on the first few pitches, because they’re in this funnel where you’re exposed to rock and icefall.”

As Anker was seconding a pitch in mid-morning, he felt something in his chest. After determining it wasn’t altitude sickness, he knew it was something bad and told Lama they had to descend.

Once the pair descended to advanced base camp, Lama organized a helicopter to get Anker to Siddhartha Hospital in Kathmandu. After some tests, the doctors determined Anker had a blockage of his left anterior descending aorta. “In medical terms they call it an acute cardiac syndrome, but for the layperson it was a heart attack,” said Anker. To read the full interview with Synnott see here.

On the morning of the 16th of November 2016 while climbing on Lunag-Ri, a peak in the Khumbu Himalaya of Nepal, I experienced an acute coronary syndrome. My climbing partner David Lama of Austria and I were six pitches up the climb when I experienced severe chest pain. Realizing this was not a pulmonary or cerebral reaction to altitude, we immediately rappelled. Having never experienced anything of this nature I immediately understood this as a time critical health situation. We called for a helicopter and with the help of our Sherpa friends I was evacuated to Kathmandu. 🔳 Within 9 hours of the incident I was in the cardiac care unit of Norvic International Hospital. Dr Bhutta performed an angioplasty and removed the obstruction. This procedure is very time sensitive as the heart can fail, experience fibrillation or loose muscle. Dr Bhutta installed a stent in my heart and kept me in observation for three days. Photo: 17 November 2016 🔲 I would like to express my gratitude to my climbing partners, our Nepali staff, the medical teams at the CIWEC clinic, Norvic Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. The kindness my family has extended is heart warming. I am forever thankful.

A photo posted by Conrad Anker (@conrad_anker) on