Everest climber to help mark anniversary

San Juan Mountains Association celebrates 25 years

The climber who reached the summit of Mount Everest more times – 14 – than anyone else, with the exception of Sherpa indigenous to the Himalayas, will speak Sunday in Durango to mark the 25th anniversary of the San Juan Mountains Association.

In fact, the climbing accomplishments of Dave Hahn, a professional mountain guide, journalist and lecturer, would be impressive even without his conquests of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain at 29,029 feet.

Hahn, 51, scaled 20,320-foot Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, 20 times, and 31 times has reached the summit of Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica at 16,050 feet.

As a guide, he took clients to the summit of Mount Rainier (14,410 feet) in Washington at least 270 times.

The nonprofit San Juan Mountains Association was formed in 1988 – at the request of the San Juan National Forest supervisor – by local residents to involve the public in land-management issues.

Among its goals were the care of cultural and natural resources through education and hands-on involvement, and communication and cooperation between agencies and the public.

“The organization today is a recognized model for interpretive associations across the country,” said volunteer program director Kathe Hayes, who has been on the job 15 years. “In 25 years, we have developed field projects, educational programs and publications to instill an ethic and stewardship toward our public lands.”

Hanh lived in Mountain View, Calif., until age 7, when his family moved to upstate New York. He received a degree in history from the State University of New York/Buffalo in 1984.

Hahn’s presentation Sunday, which will include a slide show, depicts a typical year in which he leads expeditions from Alaska to the Antarctic. He was an instructor at Taos Ski Valley from 1985 to 1991 when he joined the resort’s ski patrol and continues to today.

Hahn took part in the 1999 expedition that located the remains of George Mallory, who disappeared June 8 or 9, 1924, along with Andrew Irvine, on the north ridge of Mount Everest.

Expedition members buried Mallory under rocks where he was found.

It’s speculation whether the two, who were trying to be the first to conquer Everest, succeeded, Hahn said Monday by telephone from Taos Ski Valley.

“About half think they did, half say they didn’t,” he said. “I tend to think not, although they were seasoned climbers, strong and bold.”

Hahn returned to Everest in 2001 and 2004 to search for the remains of Irvine, spending about two months on the mountain each time.

“We tried hard, but found nothing,” Hahn said. “When I left in 2004, I felt I’d risked my life enough to find out why someone had died.”

daler@durangoherald.com

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