RICHMOND, Va. – Local adventurer and prestigious extreme climber Charles “Kit” Larson announced today his plans to scale the south face of Libby Hill in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood.
Long considered to be one of Richmond’s steepest and most dangerous climbs, Libby Hill has already claimed the lives of seven climbers and four Sherpas this year alone.
“It’s risky to take her on this early in the season, but my team and I are in perfect shape for this,” commented Larson. “Conditions are beautiful, the weather is holding, we’ve got the Hill goddess with us.”
Larson plans to spend the next three weeks at Base Camp Poe’s Pub acclimatizing, readying equipment, and organizing his team. Despite Larson’s 20-plus years of climbing experience spanning K2, Everest, and Denali, Libby Hill, colloquially named “The Beast,” will be his most challenging ascent.
Adding to the danger, Larson will be attempting the climb without any supplemental oxygen, a move that is almost unheard of at this altitude, and he is not without his critics.
“Summiting at this time of year and with no O2 is just asking for trouble,” cautioned Dutch climber Pieter Wilders. “He’s putting his entire team at risk for his own glory. It’s reckless; it’s irresponsible.” Once close partners, Wilders and Larson severed ties eight years ago after a near-fatal summit attempt on Oregon Hill — the duo had to abandon their climb at the Hollywood Cemetery Gorge due to faulty equipment and poor conditions.
Wilders added, “Any climber will tell you this — you have to respect The Beast if you want to make it back alive. There’s no reason to tempt fate … not with her.”
Larson’s timing is unorthodox and his schedule tight; most climbers consider Libby Hill far too dangerous to attempt until after the spring thaw. “Day of, we have to clear the Proper Pie Glacial Field by 10am,” instructed Larson’s Sherpa Pasang Chiri Lama. “If we miss the cut off, we’ll have to turn back early and scrap the whole attempt.”
Pasang Lama and Larson have been climbing together for the past 12 years following the death of Tenzig Lama, Pasang Lama’s older brother and Larson’s previous partner. Tenzig Lama and Larson were both caught in an avalanche attempting the eastern ridge of Forest Hill. Tenzig Lama’s body was never recovered.
The most treacherous part of the climb will be the two-thousand foot stretch between Sub Rosa Bakery and The Hill Cafe, commonly referred to as the “Death Zone.” The Death Zone earned the name over the years from a lethal combination of environmental conditions: extreme altitudes, severe weather, and a valley littered with gentrification.
After passing through the Death Zone, the last remaining marker before reaching the summit is the frozen remains of Hans Ürsteich, an Austrian climber who attempted Libby Hill in 1997. His now preserved body was never removed from the path and serves as a landmark for other climbers.
“Anything can happen in the Death Zone,” commented Larson. “Hans knew that before his attempt. The Beast calls to you, and Hans was well aware this could happen. We all miss him terribly.”
As of press time, Larson and Pasang Lama have begun daily ascents to Camp 2, or “Alamo BBQ,” to prepare their bodies for the final push. “Church Hill is a sullen wasteland,” added Larson, “But once you pass that treeline, the clouds break below you and it’s like staring Mother Nature directly in the goddamn face. It’s life-changing; once you’ve seen it, you can never stop pushing higher up the Hill.”