The latest news from China is that Xinhua News Agency, China’s official news organization, has named the three American climbers—Jonny Copp, Micah Dash, and Wade Johnson—as the victims of an avalanche. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing is, however, not confirming the identities but says they are American citizens.
Li Zhixin, an official with the Chinese Mountain Association, says that one body has been found and Chinese climbers are searching for the other two in avalanche debris. The body was located at 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) on Mount Edgar in the Minya Konka massif. The mountain is a sub-peak of 24,790-foot (7,556 meters) Mount Gongga, the highest mountain in the Sichuan Province in western China. The rescuers did not move the body because the surrounding area was unstable, instead taking photographs for identification later.
Jonny Copp, a 35-year-old climber living in Boulder, Colorado, is renowned for his many first ascents around the world, including Pakistan, China, Alaska, and South America. Jonny, a Patagonia Ambassador, said on the Patagonia website: “I get a kick out of all types of climbing, from boulders to walls to big mountains. And I love the getting there too, and the in-between, and the people you sometimes run into in the out-there places, and the music you hear at 5 a.m. from a mosque outside the hotel window, and the curses that turn to laughter at some heinous bivouac where we’ve run out of food and gear and nerve and yet somehow joke about it enough to come up with something new.”
One of Copp’s proudest ascents was the first alpine ascent (second ascent of route) of Inshallah on Shipton Spire in the Trango Valley in the Karakoram Range in Pakistan with Mike Pennings in 2000. This landmark route was the first alpine ascent of a Grade VII route up one of the biggest walls in the world. That summer he also made the first ascent of nearby Cat’s Ear Spire, a spectacular double-summitted mountain. He wrote Trick of the Light, a marvelous article about that ascent in the American Alpine Journal 2001.
Micah Dash, a 30-year-old climber also living in Boulder, is a renowned free climber as well as alpinist. He’s done some rad free ascents including Freerider (5.12+) on El Capitan and Regular Northwest Face (5.12+) on Half Dome, both in Yosemite Valley, as well as the second ascent of Cat’s Ear Spire, and then the first ascent of Shafat Fortress in India’s Kashmir region with Jonny Copp. Read a great article that Micah wrote about the ascent entitled Line of Control at the Climbing Magazine website.
Wade Johnson, a 24-year-old climber and filmmaker from Minnesota, is on the expedition to do some filming for Sender Films, an adventure film company in Boulder, Colorado. He is not, however, planning on reaching the summit.
Photographs: Top: Micah Dash and Jonny Copp below Shafat Fortress in Kashmir, India. Middle: Micah Dash at a belay on Shafat Fortress. Bottom: Wade Johnson.
Photographs courtesy Micah Dash and Jonny Copp