#2. Anatoli Boukreev vs. Mount Everest
The mountain. Everest.
Everest is known for having a "snow tail" blowing off the summit. That's because it's so high it actually punctures the jet stream, meaning most of the time the summit of Everest is blasted by winds of 100 mph. For the sake of perspective, 120 mph is the maximum velocity a human body can reach falling from a high distance, say, after being blown off the ridge of the highest point in the world, by God himself.
Get some lava into the mix and we'll be throwing sinister golden rings at it.
Anatoli Boukreev was part of an elite climbing community in Soviet Russia during the '80s, but they were so insulated from the rest of the world that he only ever climbed within the borders of his country. When the Soviet Union unraveled he left to take stabs at peaks in the Himalayas instead. Then, in May of 1996, he became a guide for one of the most famous and deadly Everest climbs in history.
Where presumably he sang tales about how many ways you can die up there.
And ... Fight!
To be clear, these days, climbing Everest is a popular pastime -- it's practically a tourist activity. Don't get us wrong -- it still kills the shit out of many, many climbers. But if climbing it was all Boukreev had done, he wouldn't be on the list.
On this particular expedition, a small window of time had opened between storms, so several groups were headed to the summit at the same time. Because of the traffic jam, they all had to walk in line along the thin Southeast Ridge. While Boukreev's team summitted in the afternoon, other groups didn't get up until the early evening.
We've told you what a bad deal darkness is on a mountain, and how murderous the storms are. These groups got trapped by both.
These are either mountaineers, or people have figured out how to walk on clouds.
The winds reached 70 mph -- that's hard enough to pick a person up off their feet -- and the wind chill dropped to -96 degrees Fahrenheit. Some climbers who were caught in the storm froze their eyes shut if they didn't keep blinking. Exposed skin would freeze instantly. One climber who managed to survive after several hours in the storm had lost his gloves, and he returned with his hands frozen through, like they had been carved from ice.
Boukreev, of course, was already down at his tent, but when he realized groups had gotten pinned up higher in the storm, he left the security of his tent to blindly search for lost climbers in complete darkness, twice. After just having climbed Mount fucking Everest without oxygen.
"LET'S DO THIS. Very slowly."
Still, he struck out into the freezing darkness and howling wind. Eventually, somehow, he found three climbers who could barely walk, and dragged them to safety in the camp. How he was able to find the camp again, or even the three climbers, has been a mystery ever since.
To give you an idea of the storm, this was what Camp III, located just below Boukreev's camp, looked like afterward:
Either a tent, or a buried ice giant wearing an anorak.
And if you think we're playing up the danger or conditions for dramatic effect, let's put it like this: Eight fucking climbers died on Everest that night.
Boukreev ensured that it wasn't 11.
Via Matt Spinner
He died the next year. This memorial at basecamp is dedicated to him.
#1. Reinhold Messner vs. Nanga Parbat
Nanga Parbat again -- the same mountain as Hermann Buhl climbed back at No. 5, only this expedition would go by a different route. This one headed for the Rupal Face, the highest vertical mountain wall in the world at 15,000 feet. That's more than 10 times the height of the Empire State Building.
Making this avalanche bigger than the tallest building in the world.
By the time he was 26, Reinhold Messner was already well known for climbing some of the hardest rock routes in the world, often solo. Still, the expedition to the Rupal Face in 1970 was his first outside of Europe.
Before conquering the mountain, you must conquer your body hair.
And ... Fight!
With his brother Gunther on the team, Reinhold summitted the Rupal Face after days of climbing. But they didn't reach the summit until late afternoon and, as you know from earlier entries, that means they were in danger of getting caught in the dark.
Gunther was also in pretty bad shape after doing one of the hardest, longest climbs in the world and could barely move from exhaustion. Making a desperate decision, Reinhold figured the only way he could get his brother off the mountain alive was to spend the night near the top and then drop down the easier-looking Diamir Face on the opposite side of the mountain. Just to be clear, Reinhold thought the Diamir face might be easier -- in reality it had never been climbed or even explored.
Via Jon Martin
Apart from this cow apparently.
Also, it's worth noting that moving to the Diamir Face would be the first ever traverse of a mountain above 26,000 feet. Traversing a mountain that size and height would take years of preparation, lots of equipment and training. Reinhold and his brother were going to just do it on the fly. They would pay for it. Near the base of the mountain, Nanga Parbat dropped an avalanche on Gunther, killing him.
(Note: Here's a good illustration of what conditions are like there -- numerous expeditions would be attempted to find Gunther's body. And someone did ... 35 years later.)
Just to stay alive, Reinhold crawled off the mountain and down the valley below it for miles until he reached a village. It took him six days. He had to amputate his toes and fingertips when he got home.
This usually means the end of climbing and mountaineering. But Reinhold Messner became the most badass climber to have ever live, climbing every mountain over 26,000 feet without supplemental oxygen, establishing new, dangerous and difficult routes where ever he went. And just as a personal "fuck you" to the mountain that killed his brother, in 1978, Reinhold returned to Nanga Parbat, and climbed the Diamir Face solo.
Essentially just flipping off God.
For more unexpected badassery, check out 5 Authors More Badass Than The Badass Character They Created and The 5 Most Badass Presidents of All-Time.