Chris Warner is the founder and CEO of Earth Treks, Inc, which operates four full service indoor climbing centers as well as a rock and ice climbing school. An American Mountain Guides Association certified Alpine Guide, Chris has been teaching climbing since 1983. In addition to helping thousands learn the basics of the sport, he has guided throughout the United States, the Alps, Africa, the Andes of Peru, Ecuador and Argentina, and the Himalayas of Nepal and Tibet (including Everest).
Climbing internationally since 1987, Chris has summited over one hundred and twenty times on peaks over 19,000 feet. He has been the leader of several private expeditions to the Himalaya and Karakorum. In the fall of 1989, his small party of three climbers succeeded in climbing a difficult new route (S. E. Ridge to E. Face) on Shivling (21,543 ft.), in the Gangotri region of India. Their epic, seven day, alpine style ascent was chronicled in his article, A Close Shave on Shivling, featured in the April 1991 edition of Climbing. In the winter of 1990, Chris and a partner forged a new route, alpine style, on the West Face of Ama Dablam (22,494 ft.). It took the team three and a half days and sixty roped pitches to climb the 5000 foot face. Mountain Magazine called this climb the hardest accomplished that season in the Himalaya. In the post monsoon season of 1999, Chris and his partner summited on Cho Oyu (26,902 ft./ 8,201 m.). In the Spring of 2000, Chris guided an international expedition to the North Ridge of Everest. They were forced to retreat after two summit bids were ended by blizzard conditions. In 2001, he successfully guided Everest’s North Ridge, on an expedition in which 14 people reached the summit. His rescue of other climbers on Everest was featured in the September 2001 issue of National Geographic Adventure. Later that year, he returned to Tibet and climbed Mt. Shishapangma (8,037 m.) via the South Face. His 34 hour ascent and descent of this technical 7000 foot tall face was the first time an American has completely soloed an 8000 meter peak. In 2002, as the armies of Pakistan and India gathered on the borders, Chris traveled to the Karakorum Range and attempted to climb both K2 and Broad Peak. Bad weather, extreme avalanche dangers and tragic accidents brought an unsuccessful conclusion to that expedition. That season no one summited K2, and two climbers lost their lives.
In 2003 Chris guided a team of 5 climbers on the North Ridge of Everest for the Outdoor Life Network’s “Global Extremes” program. This reality TV show aired from early January until early June, 2003. In addition to OLN-TV, the program aired as a prime time special on ABC-TV. Chris’ summit bid ended when he was hit by a falling oxygen cylinder, as he was rescuing a group of climbers at 27,400 ft.
In 2004 Chris returned to the Himalaya, soloing Mt. Lhotse (27, 939 ft), the fourth highest peak in the world. From Nepal he traveled by himself to Pakistan’s Mt. Nanga Parbat (26,658 ft.). As a storm swept over the summit, he turned back within 300 feet of the top, suffering from frostbitten feet, but happy to be alive.
In 2005, Chris returned to Pakistan with a partner, hoping to reach the summits of K2 (28,250 ft) and Broad Peak (26,400 ft.). On Broad Peak they spent a long night in an open bivouac at 8,000 meters and were stopped by high winds and an approaching storm while pushing towards the summit. On K2, a blizzard dropping three feet of snow, with winds blowing to 70 mph turned ended their summit bid at 23,200 ft. That season no one climbed K2.
In 2007, Chris lead the successful Shared Summits Expedition to K2, reaching the summit on July 20th. The team filmed their expedition for an NBC special and were nominated for an Emmy Award.
In 2008 Chris and his team was turned back on Nanga Parbat, when several teams pushed to the summit and all lost members. In 2010 Chris and his partner attempted a new route on the South Face of Makalu, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
Big mountains are tough teachers. Willi Unsoeld, America’s philosopher-mountaineer and educator spoke about an expedition not being a success because you summited. The expedition is only a success if you learn something about yourself and apply what you learned back at home.
A co-worker at Outward Bound asked Chris: “for someone who takes such risks in your personal life, why won’t you take a risk with your career?” It was clearly time to start Earth Treks.
Earth Treks was built and continues to grow because we want “to share our passion for climbing.” It is the core values of a high performing team that allows us to reach that mission (and scary, difficult summits): Passion, Vision, Partnership and Perseverance.
In 1989 Chris founded Earth Treks, Inc. and established it in the Washington DC area in 1990. Earth Treks has grown dramatically, tracking the growth of climbing. The climbing school teaches over 20,000 people to climb each year. Earth Treks’ mountaineering and climbing guide service has led over 190 skill development expeditions since 1992. Over 100 of these trips have been to the Andes of Ecuador, Peru and Argentina. Earth Treks is closely partnered with the Wharton Leadership Ventures Program, guiding leadership development expeditions for MBA students on peaks in Africa and Ecuador. We also work with several charities, leading fund raising (and life enriching) expeditions to places like Iceland, Kilimanjaro and Cotopaxi.
In 1997 Earth Treks opened its first of three indoor climbing centers. Located in Columbia, Timonium and Rockville Maryland, the gyms serve over 600,000 visitors each year. In 2013, Earth Treks opened its fourth climbing center in Golden, CO.
Nearly 300 people work for Earth Treks. And in 2014, over 750,000 people will climb with us. One of the greatest lessons learned on the big peaks is that who you climb with is much more important that what you climb. Earth Treks has big dreams, and the most important of those is to build a community in which we all can reach our potentials (as people and quite possibly as climbers).
When you combine a life in the mountains with a 20+ year career of building a business, you learn a lot about leadership. Chris teaches leadership to senior executives, MBA students, covert ops teams, Super Bowl Champions, start ups, non-profits and Fortune 100 companies. To learn more about Chris’ leadership work or to contact him, check out his speaking website.
Video of Chris Presenting at Google