SCARPA Athlete, Josh Wharton was a 2012 recipient of a Mugs Stump Award for his upcoming expedition to Latok 1. He will attempt the Northwest Face with partners Mike Pennings and Nate Opp. In his application for the award, Wharton, who has tried various routes on the north side of the mountain in 2007, 2008 and 2009 said, “I have now spent more than six months of my life camped below Latok I’s north side. I have begun to understand its various moods, and why it routinely defeats some of the world’s best alpinists.” We caught up with Wharton to find out more about his inspiration, fears, gear list and a little insight into the expedition.
What inspired you to pick this particular expedition?
I first learned about Latok at a Jeff Lowe slide show in the late 90s. Lowe’s ’79 expedition was an incredible story; nearly 30 days on the mountain, a Herculean effort by an all-star team, yet they came up just short. The story, and Latok’s incredible aesthetics, really called to me, and I knew that someday I would like to go and try it. Of course, at the time, I had no idea how many teams would fail trying to climb Latok. There have now been more then 40 failed expeditions to the north side of the mountain!
What are you most excited about?
This will be my fourth trip in the last six years to attempt Latok, so I clearly have a lot of enthusiasm for the project! I’m excited to put the knowledge I’ve gained over my previous three trips to good use, and finally put this legendary project to bed. I’m also psyched to spend time in the hills with my good friends and partners, Mike Pennings and Nate Opp. Mike has been one of my most influential mentors, so this will be a special trip for me.
What is one of your biggest concerns about completing your goals?
Weather and snow conditions. No amount of fitness and skill can influence these two factors, and they certainly play a huge role in Latok’s difficulty, so I’m hoping for some luck with both.
What are you doing to prepare for the expedition in terms of training?
I spend a lot of time training close to home in RMNP, which is a great way to accumulate winter alpine climbing experience. Also, I’m also planning to spend some time in the Canadian Rockies this spring, hopefully with Nate and Mike, which is the most affordable way to accumulate alpine climbing experiences on big climbs that can at least simulate the scale of Himalaya.
What pieces of SCARPA gear are you taking with you?
We’ll all be using Phantom 6000 boots on the expedition. I’ve tried most of the technical double boots out there, and these are the best, hands down.
What are some fun essentials you like to have with you when you’re out in the wilderness on these expeditions?
Mike’s a chess master, so a small chess set will be a fun distraction, at least for Nate and me! iPods and books are also key. I always take rock rings, rock shoes and a chalk bag on every trip I go on. I like to train a bit when the weather’s bad, and you never know when you might stumble upon a fantastic boulder problem!
When and how did you get into climbing/mountaineering and what new perspectives have you gained from pushing the limits in your sport?
I’ve been climbing since I was a young teenager. I learned from my father, who did a lot of climbing in the late 50s and early 60s. My father was English, so I learned to climb in a very traditional way. There was always a sense that alpine climbing was the ultimate expression of the sport. As I’ve climbed longer, I’ve grown to to love all kinds of climbing, and pursue them all the best I can. However, I still see alpine climbing as a place where all the skills you learn in the various forms of climbing, both mental and physical, can come into play and create special experiences.