Sri Lankan on a quest to conquer world’s seven peaks | Sunday Observer
Johann Peries

Sri Lankan on a quest to conquer world’s seven peaks

9 July, 2023
Camp 3: dubbed ‘Edge of the World’
Camp 3: dubbed ‘Edge of the World’

Johann Peries, the first Sri Lankan male to summit Mt Everest, is back in the island after his latest adventure climbing Mt. Denali in Alaska was cut short due to adverse weather during a three-week expedition. Peries spoke about his mission to scale the tallest peaks of the seven continents, during a Press briefing at Hilton, Colombo on Tuesday (4).

Johann Peries  Pic by Wimal Karunathilaka

The Sri Lankan mountaineer is the first to take up the task and does so with pride, planting our country’s flag on the snow-covered peaks of the world. He says that fellow climbers are surprised to see a Sri Lankan taking up such adventures because a lot of people think that the country, being an island, is bereft of any mountains and mountaineering is not something island people do.

Peries has defied this notion by conquering four of the tallest peaks in the world; Mt Everest (Asia), Mt Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mt Kosciuszkow (Australia), Mt Aconcagua (South America) and is set to take Mt Denali (North America) again with Mt Elbrus (Europe) and Mt Vinson in the Antarctic.

Mt Denali expedition

His Mt Denali expedition had been a tough one and North America’s tallest peak is as challenging as Everest. However, there are no hardened Sherpas (porters) at Denali like in Nepal, and the climbers have to carry their own loads – 30-40 pounds on their backs as well as another 40 pounds on a sledge which they have to pull up and down the mountain through severe weather.

Johann Peries with the Sri Lankan flag at Camp 3 during the Mt Denali expedition

The weather in this season was particularly unforgiving, and less that 20 percent of climbers reached the summit. He showed the media some photographs he took on the trip including the snowplane which takes climbers to the base camp/airstrip and the breathtaking ‘Edge of the World’ viewpoint where he looks on at the magnificent Mt Denali rising up from the clouds.

Peries also spoke about his two Everest expeditions, his first attempt in 2016 where he collaborated with Jayanthi Kuru Utumpala which saw the latter reach the summit. His first attempt was unsuccessful due to technical difficulties. He summited the ‘Top of the World’ on April 4, 2018 in a 48-day expedition which was sponsored via an online campaign he initiated called “Climb Everest with Johann”.

Peries also spoke about his experience seeing frozen corpses of unfortunate climbers near the summit of Everest and witnessing a near-fatal accident where one climber almost plunged down a thousand foot precipice with her sledge but was rescued by fellow mountaineers.

Mt Elbrus in Russia

Johann is planning to climb Mt Elbrus in Russia soon, depending on the situation in the country. Elbrus is a shorter climb and less challenging than Mt Denali. When asked why Mt Blanc is not considered the tallest mountain in Europe he said that Mt Elbrus, which is in the Caucus Mountains, is the highest mountain in Continental Europe.

We also asked him why he is saving Mt Vinson for the last and he said that travelling to the Antarctic is difficult since it’s expensive. We have to spend money for everything, like transportation which is not conventional like other parts of the world, he said. When asked if he will ever climb K2 – the world’s second highest peak and the most treacherous mountain, Peries said he has no plans at the moment, but added that he didn’t have any plans to climb Everest a second time but still did.

Besides adventuring, Pieris is also a hair stylist and owns four salons, two in Sri Lanka and two in Australia. He pursued his early career as an artist and a singer. His journey is that of a Sri Lankan pioneer in the field of endurance sports and he hopes his feats would inspire other Sri Lankans to take up challenges that will put the country on the map. His story parallels Sri Lanka’s trials - the Covid-19 pandemic and a crippling economic crisis; mountains which we will have to conquer as a nation.

At Base Camp

A snowplane lands on glacier which serves as airstrip near Mt Denali Base Camp