Death Before Failure: Wanda Rutkiewicz & The Golden Age of Polish Mountaineering.

The communist era, generally viewed as a time of suffering and oppression, was a period of liberating exploration and unbelievable feats of bravery and persistence for one group: Poland’s mountain climbing community. Dramatically, many lost their lives in pursuit of glory. What was it that drove their extreme expeditions?

One of the stories from this article is also available in an audio format. Click the player below to listen to our podcast Stories From The Eastern West about how Wanda Rutkiewicz changed the world’s deadliest sport…

A daring generation

Andrzej Zawada, photo: Bogdan Jankowski
Andrzej Zawada, photo: Bogdan Jankowski

During the 1980s and 1990s, Polish mountain climbers flocked en masse to the Himalayan mountains in the hope of scaling some of the tallest and most difficult peaks in the world. Not only were they successful, but they also came to dominate the Himalayan climbing scene for the greater part of these two decades. Many of the finest mountain climbers in history emerged from this ambitious group of Poles: Andrzej Zawada, Jerzy Kukuczka, Krzysztof Wielecki, Wojciech Kurtyka, and Wanda Rutkiewicz.

For the majority of the population that would never dare attempt a feat as dangerous as mountain-climbing, it is hard to understand precisely what drove these people to the top of the world. Why would anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of statistics purposely tread the ever-so-thin line between life and death?

Was it the thrill of being at the cruising altitude of a commercial airline? Did climbing to dizzying heights and reaching the top of the world help to satisfy one’s ego? Was it a spiritual journey, akin to that of Jesus or Buddha? Was it merely the pursuit of the freedom many of these climbers had never experienced?

Or, to put it bluntly, is it just something that the faint of heart will never fully comprehend?

Using Bernadette McDonald’s remarkable book Freedom Climbers as a basis, we try to find out.

Made for climbing

Wanda Rutkiewicz in the Pyrenees, 1969, photo: Photo Collection of the Museum of Sport and Tourism
Wanda Rutkiewicz in the Pyrenees, 1969, photo: Photo Collection of the Museum of Sport and Tourism

Climbing worked like a drug on her. She never even gave it any consideration. It automatically entered her blood and was totally absorbed by it.

Climbing came naturally to Wanda Rutkiewicz. She was introduced to the sport by one of her school friends while she attended university in Wrocław and it was apparent from the first climb that she had a gift. She climbed efficiently and effortlessly. Her body was seemingly built for it. In her journal, she wrote:

I adored the physical movement, the fresh air, the camaraderie, and the excitement.

Yet, the small crags, trees, and chimneys she climbed in her university days could not in any way satisfy Wanda’s adventurous spirit. She had grown to love climbing, but as she became more experienced, her ambitions grew and as her ambitions grew, so did the obstacles she climbed. It was only natural that she would eventually be drawn to the mountains.

Soon after discovering her knack for mountain climbing, her career began to flourish. Before long, she became one of the most well-known and talented climbers in all of Poland. At one point she was even approached by the Polish secret service, who recognised her natural talent and believed she could be of great use to the communist state. However, her strong-willed personality and fiercely individualistic worldview meant that surrendering herself to the will of the regime was out of the question.

The Pamir Mountains, photo: Bartek Tofel/Forum
The Pamir Mountains, photo: Bartek Tofel/Forum

Following her swift rise to prominence, Wanda, in addition to attracting attention from Polish intelligence, began to impress many within the Polish mountain climbing community. Poland’s most skilled climbers immediately recognised her undeniable talent and potential. Andrzej Zawada, one of the leaders of this talented generation, decided to invite her on an expedition to the Soviet Pamirs, which would be her first major expedition.

The expedition was, however, an unpleasant experience for Wanda. She loathed the abasing treatment she received from male climbers and felt as though she wasn’t treated as an equal.  Moreover, her confrontational personality and her inability to form and maintain relationships, problems that plagued her throughout her career, became apparent during this expedition.

After the Pamirs, she became convinced that her sponsors had essentially forced her to forfeit her independence. As had been shown by her encounter with the communist intelligence officials, such a forfeiture was anathema to her. She no longer wanted to participate in expeditions that caused her to lose her independence. She had to do things her way, even if that meant leading her own expeditions.

Climbing under communism

Meeting between Nikita Khruschev and Władysław Gomułka for the 20th anniversary of the Polish People’s Republic, 1964, photo by Romuald Broniarek / FORUM

Most sporting competitions and competitive pursuits during the height of the Cold War became incredibly politicised. For Poland, mountain climbing was hardly an exception.

Mountain climbing had previously suffered due to acrimonious Russian-Polish relations, but the thaw in relations in the 1960s between the leaders Khruschev and Gomułka allowed for its resurgence. This thaw in relations made travelling far easier and allowed climbers access to peaks and ranges that were previously inaccessible.

The communist government recognised the potential of its mountain climbing community. It believed the success of its climbers could be exploited and used as a political tool that could help to legitimise and bolster support for the regime.

More importantly, the government believed that the success of their climbers would bring glory to Poland. For this reason, it was incredibly supportive of the climbers and their pursuits. Over time, as the mountain climbing community grew in size, a sizeable bureaucratic apparatus formed to subsidise their increasingly expensive expeditions.

At the same time, this fervent support for mountain-climbing does seem a bit ironic. It did bring Poland glory and put them on the world stage, that much is true, but mountain climbing itself is fundamentally un-communist.

In many cases, it was an individualistic pursuit, which clashed with the lofty communist notion of collectivism. Moreover, there was a truly liberating aspect to these expeditions. Once they entered the mountains, they were no longer under constant surveillance and subject to the authoritarian laws of their government. The mountains were, unbeknownst to the regime, a veritable oasis of freedom.

Communist officials, however, were not interested in analysing the deeper meaning of mountain climbing. All they cared about was that Poland was glorified on the international stage. And these climbers, whether intentional or not, undoubtedly succeeded in bringing glory to Poland.


The Great Himalayas, photo: Bartek Tofel / Forum
The Great Himalayas, photo: Bartek Tofel / Forum

It is hard to say exactly what led to such a talented generation of Polish climbers. Some believed that the suffering Poland endured during the 20th century had created a resilient and driven group of people. Poles, however, believed that their success in the mountains came from a tradition of nobility and bravery that was inherent to their culture. Regardless of the source of their success, it was clear that these climbers were uniquely gifted.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Polish mountain climbers were among the most successful in the world. They managed to scale some of the world’s most difficult peaks, attempt increasingly dangerous routes, and challenge the limits of possibility.

It would be impossible to include all the accomplishments of Polish climbers during this period, but here is a list of some of their noteworthy achievements:

  • In 1980, Andrzej Zawada led the first winter ascent of Mt. Everest.
  • In 1985, Wojtek Kurtyka successfully climbed the ‘Shining Wall’ of the Gasherbrum IV peak in the Himalayas, a feat which some called one of the greatest achievements of mountaineering in the 20th century.
  • In 1987, Jerzy Kukuczka became the second person to climb all fourteen ‘eight-thousanders’, the aptly-named peaks that tower over eight-thousand metres above sea-level.
  • Kukuczka also created a new route on K2, dubbed the Polish Line, which no one has repeated.
  • Krzysztof Wielecki became the fifth man to climb all fourteen eight-thousanders and the first person to climb Mt. Everest, Kangchenjunga, and Lhotse in the winter.
  • Rutkiewicz became the first woman to summit K2 and the first Polish person, male or female, to climb Mt. Everest.
  • Rutkiewicz also managed to climb eight of the fourteen eight-thousanders during her illustrious career.

It goes without saying that this was a particularly tenacious group of climbers. Not only did they scale some of the most daunting peaks in the world, they often did so in extremely difficult conditions. If a certain peak had already been summited numerous times, they looked for more challenging routes or scaled it in the dead of winter. In some cases, they even climbed alone or refused to use supplemental oxygen.

For these climbers, there would be always uncharted territory. There would always be a new record to break and a more challenging route to attempt. It was precisely this relentless determination and pioneering spirit that allowed them to be among the best in the world.

Wanda’s struggles

Wanda Rutkiewicz, Pakistan / China, 1982, during an expedition to K2 (peak in the background), photo: archives of Jerzy Kukuczka / Forum
Wanda Rutkiewicz, Pakistan / China, 1982, during an expedition to K2 (peak in the background), photo: archives of Jerzy Kukuczka / Forum

As Wanda became more popular and her achievements started to accumulate, she became increasingly isolated from the mountain climbing community. She had proved she was among the best in the world and her scaling of Mt. Everest became, arguably, her crowning achievement.

She also had led several all-female expeditions and became a trailblazer for women’s climbing throughout the world. She was one of, if not the most, recognisable mountain climbers in the world. As Rudolf Messner, arguably the greatest mountaineer in history, once said:

Wanda is the living proof that women can put up performances at high altitude that most men can only dream of.

Yet, this success does not tell the entire story. Many of these triumphs and achievements came at a significant cost to both her personal life and her relationships with other climbers.

For one, the schedule of a mountain climber can be rather erratic. Wanda’s obsession with the pursuit only managed to exacerbate this. Since she was away from home for so long her marriages suffered, her finances were in shambles, and her nomadic lifestyle was unmanageable.

The difficulties in her personal life coupled with the death of her father also made her distrustful by nature. As a result, she was wary of commitment and often pushed away those who wanted to help her. As one climber put it:

Difficult. Competing. We loved her but she didn’t seem to know that. She thought she was alone. She pushed us away. But we loved Wanda.

Unfortunately, many of these personal struggles followed her on expeditions and often manifested themselves in other difficulties. In some instances, her strong will demonstrated that she was as capable as any male climber, regardless of what they thought of her. As Krzysztof Wielecki, one of Poland’s most decorated climbers, said:

She was very calculating, tough like a bull.

Or on another occasion:

A difficult woman, an extraordinary woman.

In other instances, she became dictatorial in her leadership style, alienating many of her peers. Her determination instilled confidence in other climbers, but her leadership style, once again, hurt the relationships she frequently struggled to maintain.

It is important to add, however, that these personal struggles do not in any way diminish the significance of her accomplishments. On the contrary – when her personal struggles are taken into consideration, her accomplishments become even more admirable. They manage to demonstrate how resilient she truly was.

And despite the obstacles she faced, both in the mountains and back home, she nonetheless remained one of the most talented climbers of her generation and in the history of women’s climbing.

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38th anniversary of the first Everest winter ascent.

February 17, 1980 – First winter ascent by Andrzej Zawada’s team from Poland: Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki.

This was also the first winter summit of any of the world’s fourteen 8000 metre peaks.

Completed in 1980 by a team of phenomenally rugged Polish climbers, this ascent was led by … Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki reached the summit on February 17.

Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy celebrate winning Mount Everest in Winter.

One might say that winter expeditions into the Himalayas were invented by Polish people, mainly by Andrzej Zawada, becouse he is considered as the originator of the idea.

It’s important to remind that first 7 of all eight-thousanders mountains were reached by Poles who became famous and British mountaineers called them “ICE WARRIORS”.

These first 7 peaks were reached by Polish climbers between the years of 1980 – 1988. That is why those times are also called “The Golden Decade” of Polish Himalaism.

You can see..

Krzysztof Wielicki – detailed diary of First winter ascent of Mount Everest, Please click the links below :

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 1

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 2

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 3

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 4

* more on –   37th anniversary of the first Everest winter ascent.

** I invite you to relationships with expeditions Polish mountaineers.

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37th anniversary of the first Everest winter ascent.

February 17, 1980 – First winter ascent by Andrzej Zawada’s team from Poland: Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki.

This was also the first winter summit of any of the world’s fourteen 8000 metre peaks.

Completed in 1980 by a team of phenomenally rugged Polish climbers, this ascent was led by … Leszek Cichy and Krzysztof Wielicki reached the summit on February 17.

Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy celebrate winning Mount Everest in Winter.

You can see ..

Krzysztof Wielicki – detailed diary of First winter ascent of Mount Everest, Please click the links below :

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 1

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 2

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 3

Polish winter expedition 1980: Everest – part 4

** I invite you to relationships with expeditions Polish mountaineers.

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VIII KFG – 8th Krakow Mountain Film Festival. VIII edycja Krakowskiego Festiwalu Górskiego. /Version english and polish/

Mark your calendars!
3th to 5th December 2010 in Krakow, Poland.

VIII KFG – 8th Krakow Mountain Film Festival.1-kfg_logo

The 8th Krakow Mountain Festival (KFG) just started. Between 3 and 5 December 2010 there will be an opportunity to admire the best mountain film productions, participate in meetings with the greatest Polish and international climbing stars, watch climbing competitions and also to take part in numerous workshops.

Guests of 8th Krakow Mountain Film Festival are famous and fabolous climbers likie: Catherine Destivelle, Adam Ondra and Robert Jasper.

The Polish climbing scene will be represented, among others, by our best Himalayan climbers: Kinga Baranowska and Piotr Pustelnik. Piotr has thus become the third Polish climber to complete the 14x8000ers, after Jerzy Kukuczka and Krzysztof Wielicki. There will be also other Polish climbers – both bigwall and sport. The full list of Polish guests will be published on link – guests of the Polish.

Kinga Baranowska and Piotr Pustelnik expedition Annapurna Dream 2010
Puja – Annapurna BC

The 8th Krakow Mountain Festival (KFG)

Date: 3-5 December 2010
Place: University of Economics, Krakow, ul. Rakowicka 27.

* oficial site : – VIII KFG – 8th Krakow Mountain Film Festival

* Mountain Film Festivals :

** Previous story : – Mountain Film Festivals

VII KFG – 7th Krakow Mountain Film Festival. VII edycja Krakowskiego Festiwalu Górskiego. /Version english and polish/

Guests of 6th Krakow Mountain Film Festival – Goście VI KFG himalaiści /Version polish and english/

VI KFG – 6th Krakow Mountain Film Festival. VI edycja Krakowskiego Festiwalu Górskiego. /Version english and polish/

8. Krakowski Festiwal Górski

W dniach 3-5 grudnia 2010 roku odbędzie się 8. Krakowski Festiwal Górski. W ciągu trzech dni w Krakowie, w sali widowiskowej Uniwersytetu Ekonomicznego, gościć będzie wielki alpinistyczny świat. A w nim wybitne górskie osobowości, podróżnicy, świetni fotograficy, pokazy filmowe i multimedialne, prelekcje, dyskusje, zawody sportowe, warsztaty oraz wykłady etc. Słowem prawdziwe święto gór, którego nie można przegapić.

Na scenie festiwalowej wystąpi światowa i polska czołówka himalaistów, wspinaczy wielkościanowych i sportowych. Wyjątkowość krakowskiego festiwalu potwierdzą w tym roku – pierwsza dama francuskiego alpinizmu Catherine Destivelle, rewelacyjny wspinacz czeski Adam Ondra oraz jeden z najlepszych mikstowych wspinaczy świata Niemiec Robert Jasper! Wśród polskich gości nie zabraknie himalaistów Kingi Baranowskiej, Piotra Pustelnika oraz wspinaczy skalnych Adama Pustelnika, Marcina Wszołka i Konrada Ociepki.

Najlepsze kino górskie – konkursy filmowe na 8 KFG.

Obraz, w tym film od samego początku stanowił jeden z głównych punktów programu Krakowskiego Festiwalu Górskiego.

Organizatorzy przygotowali w tym roku aż trzy konkursy filmowe, dzięki którym będzie można zobaczyć polskie i zagraniczne kino górskie z najwyższej półki, jak też krótkie, acz z pewnością pełne humoru filmiki stworzone przez miłośników górskich aktywności.

Grand Prix KFG 2010

Tradycyjnie odbędzie się Konkurs Polskiego Filmu Górskiego, w którym uczestnicy będą walczyć o główną nagrodę festiwalu – Grand Prix KFG 2010. Co roku konkurs cieszy się dużą popularnością, a na ekranie goszczą obrazy prezentujące najróżniejsze górskie dyscypliny w niebanalnych ujęciach. Konkurs filmu polskiego umożliwia także młodym twórcom zmierzenie się z uznanymi już filmowcami.

Międzynarodowy Konkurs Filmowy

W tym roku organizatorzy postanowili nadać tematyce filmowej jeszcze większą rangę i zaprosić do udziału w konkursie filmowym również twórców zagranicznych. W efekcie, obok odbywającego się co roku konkursu o Grand Prix KFG 2010, czeka nas dodatkowo premiera Międzynarodowego Konkursu Filmowego.
Do udziału w konkursie zaproszono osiem zagranicznych produkcji oraz dwa najlepsze, wcześniej wybrane polskie obrazy. W jury Międzynarodowego Konkursu Filmowego zasiądą między innymi: Krzysztof Lang (przewodniczący jury), Martyna Wojciechowska, Krzysztof Wielicki i Piotr Turkot.

Górski ekspres

Na 8. Krakowskim Festiwalu Górskim równolegle do Konkursu Polskich Filmów i Międzynarodowego Konkursu Filmowego filmowcy będą mieli okazję powalczyć w jeszcze jednym filmowym “(mini)wyścigu” pod tytułem: “Górski ekspres”.
“Górski ekspres” to kolejna propozycja dla wszystkich entuzjastów sportów górskich, którzy mają głowę pełną pomysłów. Do konkursu zaproszeni są zatem wszyscy miłośnicy wspinania, górskich eskapad, freeride`u czy slacka. W konkursie mogą wziąć udział maksymalnie 60-sekundowe filmiki, również te nakręcone telefonem komórkowym.
Nadesłane filmy będzie można na bieżąco oglądać na stronie poświęconej konkursowi. Spośród tych propozycji zostaną wybrane najlepsze produkcje, które pokazane zostaną na 8. Krakowskim Festiwalu Górskim i ubiegać się będą o Nagrodę Publiczności “Górskiego ekspresu”.

Już tradycyjnie podczas festiwalu wręczona zostanie prestiżowa „Jedynka” za wybitne osiągnięcie na polu alpinizmu i wspinaczki sportowe.

Na 8. KFG nie zabraknie również interaktywnych kursów lawinowych, paneli dotyczących najważniejszych zasad bezpiecznego poruszania się po górach oraz gorących dyskusji o ekologii. W czasie Festiwalu rozegrane zostaną emocjonujące Mistrzostwa Polski w Boulderingu. Bardzo ważnym elementem festiwalu będą targi sprzętu i odzieży outdoorowej.

Bardzo ważnym elementem VIII KFG będzie Kiermasz sprzętu i odzieży outdoorowej.

Miejsce: Uniwersytet Ekonomiczny w Krakowie, ul. Rakowicka 27.

Festiwal odbywa się na terenie Uniwersytetu Ekonomicznego [mapa]

Plan miasta i tereny UE :

Uniwersytet Ekonomiczny KrakowPlan sytuacyjny imprez festiwalowych :

Plan sytuacyjny imprez festiwalowychPawilon Dydaktyczno-Sportowy

Festiwale filmów górskich :

*Zobacz inne posty o festiwalach : – Mountain Film Festivals

VII KFG 2009: laureaci.

VII KFG Krakowski Festiwal Górski 2009 – POKAZY SPECJALNE.

VII KFG 2009: Lista filmów konkursowych i warsztaty dla najmłodszych.

** Źródła : –

** zapraszam na relacje z wypraw polskich himalaistów.

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Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 4: Serial summiteers, lower peaks, new routes, rescues and Sherpa racers.

Here goes yet another piece of the huge Everest and Himalaya chronicle compiled by ExWeb contributor Rodrigo Granzotto. The Brazilian stats ace is now focusing on massive 8000er summiteers, lower peaks, new routes, amazing rescues and Sherpas racing for the ’14x’ mark.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle: part 4
by Rodrigo Granzotto Peron


The first climber to reach 8000er summits 20 times was Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA). He now has 23 (or possibly 24), the actual world record (1*). So far, Juanito has repeated EV, K2, KG, MK, CH, G1 and G2 (Annapurna 2010 is contested). He is the first person to repeat the Top Three (two summits on EV, on K2 and on KG).

The second climber to summit 20x8000ers was Ed Viesturs (USA), on Annapurna in 2005. After some years of absence, he came back last year as part of the expedition organized by First Ascent. With seven summits on Everest, Ed now has 21 main 8000ers.

Several Sherpas have also broken the 20k barrier recently. The list includes Danuru (IMG guide), with 22 main 8000ers; Phurba Tashi (Himex guide), who summited Everest twice in 2010, also with 22; Apa, who ascended Everest for the 20th time, and is the first person to break the 20k barrier on just one 8000er; Tshering Dorje II Sherpa (Rolwaling Excursion), on his second summit of Makalu, now has 20. Mingma Tshering (Jagged Globe), who has 20 as well. In addition, both Chuwang Nima and Lhakpa Rita I, guides for Alpine Ascents, summited 20 times. So, now several outfits can be proud to have 20k Sherpa guides.

Situation of those who have conquered most of the main 8000ers:

23 Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA) (24 if including Annapurna)
22 Danuru Sherpa (NEP) [IMG]
22 Phurba Tashi Sherpa (NEP) [Himex]
21 Ed Viesturs (USA)
20 Apa Sherpa (NEP)
20 Chuwang Nima Sherpa (NEP) [Alpine Ascents]
20 Lhakpa Rita I Sherpa (NEP) [Alpine Ascents]
20 Mingma Tshering I Sherpa (NEP) [Jagged Globe]
20 Tshering Dorje II Sherpa (NEP) [Rolwaling Excursion]
19 Ang Rita Sherpa (NEP)
19 Chuldim Ang Dorje Sherpa (NEP) [Adventure Consultants]
19 Kami Rita I Sherpa (NEP) [Alpine Ascents]
18 Denis Urubko (KAZ)
18 Nima Gombu Sherpa (NEP)
18 Norbu (Nuru) Sherpa (NEP)
18 Park Young-Seok (S.K.)
18 Pasang Dawa (Pando) Sherpa (NEP)
18 Reinhold Messner (ITA)
17 Nima Dorje I Sherpa (NEP)
17 Ralf Dujmovits (GER)
17 Serap Jangbu Sherpa (NEP)
17 Sergio Martini (ITA)
17 Um Hong-Gil (S.K.)
17 Veikka Gustafsson (FIN)

An increasing number of climbers are between ten and 16 summits on 8000ers. In fact, more than 100 alpinists, including, for example, the recent 10k summiteers Simone Moro, Kim Chang-Ho, Palden Namgye Sherpa, Speed Pemba Sherpa, Vernon Tejas and Jorge Egocheaga Rodriguez.

And what is the absolute limit for the collectors? There is no limit at all. For example, if Juanito finishes his “double race”, he would end his journey with 14×2=28, plus two more summits on Cho Oyu–30 in total (30k). Sherpas could go even further. For example, a Sherpa beginning his career now at 20 years of age and working for an outfit at the rate of two-expeditions per year (EV in spring and CH in autumn) would enter the year of his 50th birthday with, more or less, sixty 8000ers summited (60k). With the current speed, we will start to see 30k climbers very soon–about three to four years from now.


I–Changtse (7,538m)

It is hard to be a lower satellite of such a colossal peak like Everest. Those peaks below the umbrella of Chomolungma are most of the time forgotten. It is the case of Changtse (7,538m), the highest sub-peak of the Everest massif in Tibet. Only 12 ascents registered, by 52 climbers, the last one in 1992.

This season, Alex Abramov (RUS), the leader of the respectful Seven Summits Club outfit, decided to end the hiatus, and summited Changtse with three Sherpas, on a partially new route (North Col South Ridge).

II–Takargo (6,771m)

It is a new year for a new virgin 6000er to the collection of these two great climbers who refuse to join the stream and, instead, look for challenging routes on lower peaks. The curriculum of David Gottlieb (USA) and Joe Puryer (USA) is coming to be plenty of luminous gems: 2008–Kang Nachugo (6,735m); 2009–Jobo Rinjang (6,778m); 2010–Takargo (6,771 m).

The first ascent of Takargo was performed in late winter (March 11-12). According to the sketches on the expedition website, the line goes up on the middle of the East Flank, then traverses the entire face to the extreme left, gaining the upper ridge that is entirely traversed back to the right up to the summit. The route literally makes an “S”.

By the way, the other expedition on Takargo, under leadership of Malgorzata Teresa Jurewicz (POL), was unsuccessful.

For the record: Talking about winter, there were some more activities in the coldest season of the year. Andy Parkin (UK) and Victor Saunders (UK) tried Lobuche West Peak (6,119m), but no cigar. Shinji Sato led an expedition to Khatung Kang (6484m), but gave up at 6,100 meters. And the major headline in winter was Renan Ozturk (USA) and Cory Richards (CAN) who ascended the Central Pillar of the S Face of Taboche (6,495m), a technically difficult route in pure winter weather.

III–Kojichuwa Chuli (6,439m)

Under leadership of Michihiro Honda, three Japanese climbers–Ken Fujikawa, Yuta Kawamura and Satoshi Kimoto–performed the first ascent of Kojichuwa Chuli, another beautiful 6000er first summited this season. The three previous expeditions (two from Spain in 2008 and 2009, and one from Japan in 2009) were unsuccessful.

IV–Ekdant (6,100m) and Kartik (5,115m)

Portuguese climbers Daniela Teixeira and Paulo Roxo are also “out of the stream”. They are always aiming for new routes, both virgin and seldom visited peaks. This season they paid a visit to Garwhal Himalaya and opened two alpine-style new routes. On Ekdant they performed the second ascent (the first complete new route on an Himalayan peak by climbers from Portugal); and on Kartik they opened a brand-new line: Directa Lusitana.


I–Lhotse (W Face route and Kazakh upper variant)

The incredible Denis Urubko (KAZ) performed solo on this new route on the West Face of Lhotse. He went on the high slopes of the fourth highest mountain and opened an upper variant that differs from the original Swiss Route of 1956. According to the sketches released to the press, the route is equal to the route of 1956 until 8,000 meters. Then, instead of traversing the upper S Col plateau to the couloir that leads to the summit, Denis went to the left, traversed the entire rock bands to the right, and then went to the summit by the ridge. This is the first new route on Lhotse in the past two decades and it is the first new route on the West Face since 1956.

Denis so far opened new lines on Broad Peak (SW Face, 2005), Manaslu (NE Face, 2006), Cho Oyu (SE Face, 2009) and Lhotse (W Face upper variant, 2010). An astonishing curriculum!

For the record: Lhotse is still the 8000er with less different routes. The regular W Face has only two: Swiss 1956 and Kazakh 2010. The dangerous and difficult S Flank has also two lines: Russian 1990 and Slovenian 1990, while the challenging E Face is completely virgin. Except for the standard route, none of the other routes were completely repeated. So, only four routes in 54 years. In comparison K2 has 11 routes and variants and Everest has 21.

II–Makalu (SW Face–Ukrainian Route)

The south side of Makalu, divided into two portions (SW Face and SE Face), has had several successful routes over the years: SE Ridge Complete (Japanese Route, 1970); Slovenian Route (1975); S Pillar (Czech/Slovak Route, 1976); SE Ridge and E Face (S Korean Route, 1982); and Beghin Route (1989). However, in the last two decades this flank has been neglected. In fact, the last new line on Makalu was a variant to the French Route, performed by Iñaki, Vallejo, Txikon, Martinez, and Ogwyn in 2004.

In 2010 several different expeditions explored this mighty face of Makalu.

A British expedition, under leadership of Colin Scott, tried again the SE Ridge Complete. Previously, Colin had led two expeditions on this route, one in 2004 and the other in 2008, without success. The American expedition of Chris Warner and Marty Schmidt aimed a new line on the southern slopes of Makalu. Warner, with HAPE symptoms, had to be airlifted out of the mountain. Schmidt tried alone, but gave up before summiting.

The Ukrainian team to the SW Face was led by Valentin Simonenko and Yuri Klugov, and comprised of several climbers who conquered Himalchuli in 2007. After installing five altitude camps, the first rope–Serguey Pugachov and Sasha Zakolodny–could not proceed to the summit. Two days later, the second rope–Dmitry Venslavovsky, Serguey Bublik and Vladimir Roshko–made it to the highest point. As reported, the crux was a barrier of rocks from 8,300 to 8,400 meters.

The new line follows the Slovenian Route of 1975 on the lower parts, then at the point it intersects the Beghin Route of 1989 inflects to the left until touching the W Pillar on c7,600 meters, following it to the main summit. The summiteers down climbed via the regular route, completing the third traverse on Makalu (Himalayan Database registers two previous traverses: Marc Batard, 1988, and Pierre Beghin, 1989).

For the record: The Ukrainians, mainly Serguey Bershov and Vladislav Terzyul, have participated in the opening of several very hard routes on 8,000ers, such as: Everest, SW Face (1982); Kangchenjunga, NE Ridge [traverse] (1989); Lhotse, S Face (1990); Annapurna, NW Face (1996); and Manaslu, SE Face – SE Spur (2001). Now, with Makalu, SW Face (2010), it is time for a new generation to keep the flame burning.


Pakistani Army’s helicopter pilots are famous for the audacious and difficult rescues in high altitudes. The most known episode was the dramatic rescue of Tomaz Humar (SLO), trapped at almost 7,000 meters at the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat in 2005.

Helicopter activity is very dangerous in thin air. So these pilots who risk their own lives to take stranded climbers out of the mountain are truly heroes. Nevertheless, the higher the riskier. The highest rescue operation by a chopper took place on Kamet in 2004 at 7,083 meters by an Indian Air Force’s SA315 LAMA.

In spring of 2010, Air Zemmatt (SWZ) and Fishtail Air (NEP) joined forces to provide the first standby helicopter rescue service in Himalaya, doing in Nepal the same incredible job that Pakistan’s pilots had performed over the past decade on Karakoram. As soon as the ‘season’ started to heat up, the service proved to be extremely necessary. On April 23 the body of a dead climber–Philip Ulrich (DEN)–was airlifted out of Kyajo Ri (6,186 m). Then came well succeeded operations on Manaslu (S Korean climbers), on Makalu (Chris Warner), on Dhaulagiri (Chinese climbers), among several others.

Since climbing 8000ers became touristic, it is clearly important to create a strong security and support structure to help those tourists who have had problems on the mountains. The joint operation between Air Zemmatt and Fishtail Air is one of the most important steps in this field. And the Spring of 2010 was really a landmark of air rescue.


There is another “race” going on, but of course without the media coverage that the womens race had. Several Sherpas are engaged in being the first Nepali to summit all 14. In spring 2010, Serap Jangbu and Mingma I were on top of the list with 11 8000ers summited (Mingma would later add NP and GI in later months).

Evolution line of the Sherpas collectors:

First to 1x8000er: Phu Dorje I, Khumjung (EV 1965)
First to 2x8000ers: Urkien Tshering (1977)
First to 3x8000ers: Nga Temba II (1981)
First to 4x8000ers: Ang Rita (1986)
First to 5x8000ers: Nima Temba II (1994)
First to 6x8000ers: Nima Temba II (1994)
First to 7x8000ers: Nima Dorje (2000)
First to 8x8000ers: Mingma I (2004)
First to 9x8000ers: Serap Jangbu (2006)
First to 10x8000ers: Serap Jangbu (2006)
First to 11x8000ers: Serap Jangbu (2009)

Ed. Note: On an email to ExplorersWeb, Nicholas Chaigneau states that Mingma I summited NP on July 11th and G1 on August 5th. Thus “he only needs KG to complete the list (he’s now the first nepali who climbed all pakistani 8000ers);” Nicholas notes.

Bob Schelfhout then provided futher details: “July10, Iranian climber Azim Gheychi Saz summited Nanga Parbat. He was accompanied by Sherpa climber Mingma, who summited his 12th 8000er.Later in the season, on August 5th, Mingma Sherpa summited Gasherbrum I with the Korean expedition. That brings the tally to 13 for Mingma, with only Kangchenjunga left.”

Stats on this article correspond to spring 2010 season. Summer 8000+m summits have not yet been filed up. These will be hoever included in a summer season chronicle soon.

Sherpas with most 8000ers summited:

11 Serap Jangbu
11 Mingma I (in spring, 2010)
9 Dawa Wangchuk
7 Nima Dorje I
7 Pema Tshering
6 Nima Temba II
6 Phurba Chhiri
6 Dawa Tshering I
6 Tshering Dorje I
6 Tshering Dorje III

The first Sherpa to declare his intention of summiting all 8000ers was Serap Jangbu. Serap is from Khumjung and was born in 1969. His first 8000er was Kangchenjunga, where he miraculously escaped alive after falling into a crevasse. Instead on working mainly on EV and CH, like most Sherpas, he opted to venture on other peaks. Among other accomplishments, he summited K2 twice, scaled the SW face of SH and tried a new route on the incredible SW face of EV with Park Young-Seok. He has 17x8000ers in all, and still needs G1, BP and NP to complete the race. He is in Pakistan, and will try NP and G1.

Mingma I is also a freelancer, from Nurbu Chaur and born in 1978. He had a meteoric career from 2000 to 2004, when he grabbed nine different main 8000ers. Then, no more news about him until the beginning of the last spring season on Nepal, where he performed a difficult double-header. First, Annapurna with Edurne Pasaban. Nine days later, Dhaulagiri with the Iranians. It was the fifth AN and DH combo ever, and the one in less time (previous record was Andre Georges, in 1996 [ten days]). Mingma only needs KG to complete the list.

Other two Sherpas who pursuit all 14 are Dawa Wangchuk (the partner of Oh Eun-Sun) and Tshering Dorje II (from Rowlwaling Excursion).

Let’s stay tuned this summer, because the Sherpa’s race will become even hotter, since the two Nepalis with the most 8000ers can end the season with 13x8000ers each.

(1*)ExWeb Note, Aug26: Juanito’s summit of Annapurna is valid according to mountaineering tradition and Explorersweb. The views expressed is the author’s only. Check a related story here.

NOTE: This Chronicle is based on preliminary data and under analysis. Some numbers will be revised in the following months, with possibly a few corrections made by then.

* Previous story :

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 3: Firsts, records and 14x8000ers happy endings.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 2: The final chapter of the women’s race.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, Take 1: 8000er Collectors, Everest Serial Summiteers and Lost Climbers.

* Related Links :

StatCrunch: ladies of thin air – beyond Wanda’s footprints.

Oh Eun-Sun summits Annapurna – becomes the first woman 14x8000er summiteer!

Edurne Pasaban the first European and second woman in the world to complete the 14x8000ers.

Piotr Pustelnik summits Annapurna – bags the 14x8000ers!

Veikka Gustafsson completes the 14×8000ers list!

Andrew Lock completes the 14×8000ers list!

* Polish Himalayas – Become a Fan

Exweb Week-In-Review is sponsored by HumanEdgeTech the world’s premier supplier of expedition technology. Our team helps you find ultra light expedition tech that works globally.

e-mail or call +1 212 966 1928

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Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 3: Firsts, records and 14x8000ers happy endings.

This third part on Rodrigo Granzotto’s Everest and Himalaya Chronicle focuses on climbers joining the 14x8000er summiteers’ club, historic records, and other “firsts” achieved in spring 2010. It also hits the bull’s eye on some doubts and controversies which made waves during the season.


As predicted on last year’s Chronicle, the list of climbers with all 14 would double or more in the next few years, and we are starting to see just this. In 2009 four climbers ended the race: Denis Urubko, Ralf Dujmovits, Veikka Gustafsson and Andrew Lock. This year, so far, four more: João Garcia, Piotr Pustelnik, Oh Eun-Sun and Edurne Pasaban. The list had 14 names by the end of 2008, and now there are 22 (an increase of 57%).

The next hot spot will be K2, where Maxut Zhumayev, Vassili Pivtsov, Serguey Bogomolov and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner are in position to also join the club, therefore, the list will almost double in just one year (2009-2010). Also, as dark horse, there is Serap Jangbu Sherpa, who still needs NP, G1 and BP.

Spring Season: those who concluded the quest for all 14:

João Garcia: the first Portuguese and the eleventh person to summit all 14 without oxygen. The career of João started on Cho Oyu (1993) where he opened a partially new variant with Wielicki and Pustelnik and then Nanga Parbat. After the tragedy on Everest (1999), he suffered severe frostbite and needed to be helped down by the Brazilian couple Paulo and Helena Coelho. But João was strong and persistent. He recovered and came back to the game with a strong appetite. He succeeded during 2004-2010 by finishing the last ten 8000ers.

Piotr Pustelnik: the third climber from Poland to end the race. Very respected not only for his skills but also R) . for humanitarianism works in helping so many times with climbers who were in trouble (K2 in 1996, BP in 1999 and AN in 2006). Annapurna–the last 8000er on his path–proved to be tough. Two tries on the S Face (2004 and 2005), one on the E Ridge (2006) and one on the N Face (2008), which all ended without success. After 2006, Pustelnik stated: “This mountain, which I tried to conquer for the third time, sucked out all my climbing skills and my humanity.” But fortunately he came back and finally conquered Annapurna and ended an almost 20-years journey among the 8000ers. He is also the oldest climber to conquer all 14 at 58 years old.

Oh Eun-Sun: accomplished what seemed impossible. In 2007, with only three 8000ers summiting (G2, EV and SH), she was light-years away from Edurne, Gerlinde and Nives. But she had big plans and, with support of strong sponsors, unlimited money and a formidable structure; she summited eleven 8000ers in about three years. On Gasherbrum I (2009) she left Edurne behind and become the leading female climber. Consequently, this spring she concluded her quest as the first woman to summit all 14.

Edurne Pasaban: the third climber from Spain and the second female climber to summit all 8000ers. Her first peak was Everest, with Ivan Vallejo and Silvio Mondinelli, two of her most regular partners. After climbing some mountains, she joined the Al Filo de Lo Imposible, a television show for TVE, and also had sponsorship and structure to pledge herself to the race. With two summits this Season (Annapurna and exactly one month later Shishapangma), she succeeded. It is interesting to point out that she has conquered all 14 in a very short time: eight years and 11 months (faster than her, only Jerzy Kukuczka, Park Young-Seok, Han Wang-Young and Denis Urubko).



First Austrian women–Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Sylvia Studer, Claudia Studer
First Bangladeshi–Musa Ibrahim
First British to summit 8x–Kenton Cool
First Central-American to summit EV from both sides–Julio Bird (P.R.)
First climber to summit 20x–Apa Sherpa (NEP)
First climbers to summit twice in five different seasons–Phurba Tashi (NEP) and Dorje Sonam Gyalzen (NEP)
First Finn woman–Carina Raihasta
First Greek woman–Anastasia Iliopulou
First Guatemalan woman–Andrea Cardona
First Hungarian to summit 2x–Anita Ugyan
First Irish to summit 3x–Noel Richmond Hanna
First Italian to summit 4x–Simone Moro
First woman from Central America–Andrea Cardona (GUA)
First woman to summit the Nepali Route for three straight years–Melissa Sue Arnot (USA)
First Maltese–Robert Gatt, Greg Attard and Marco Cremona
First Mexican to summit 4x–Yuri Contreras Cedi
First Montenegrins–Niksicani Dordije Vujicic, Marko Blecic, Dragutin Vujovic
First New Zealander to summit 7x–Mark Woodward
First mother-and-daughter team from Tibetan side–Sylvia and Claudia Studer (AUT)
First Omani–Khalid Sulaiman Humaid Al-Siyabi
First South American disabled–Nelson Cardona (COL)
First South Korean to summit 4x–Heo Young-Ho
First western brothers to summit together two consecutive years–Willie and Damian Benegas (ARG/USA)
Oldest Brazilian–Manoel Morgado, 53
Oldest Brazilian woman–Cleo Weidlich, 46
Oldest Finn–Mika Pitkamaki, 40
Oldest Danish woman–Stina Dalgaard Pedersen, 35
Oldest Norwegian–Tore Rasmussen, 60
Oldest Portuguese–Angelo Felgueiras, 46
Oldest Turkish–Ali Nasuh Mahruki, 42
Second western climber to summit Everest 10x–Guillermo Willie Benegas (ARG/USA)
Western climber with more summits (12)–Dave Hahn (USA)
Youngest climber–Jordan Romero (USA), 13
Youngest British woman–Bonita Gina Norris, 25
Youngest Indian–Arjun Vajpayee, 16
Youngest Indian woman–Bhagyashree Manohar Sawant, 18
Youngest Lebanese–Elia Saikaly, 31


Youngest woman climber–Tamara Lunger (ITA), 23


First Dutch–Arnold Coster
First French woman–Sandrine De Choudens
First Greek–Zaharias Kiriakakis
First Swiss woman–Alexia Zuberer
First Turkish–Tunç Findik
Youngest Ukrainian–Vladimir Roshko, 27

IV–Cho Oyu:

First South American to summit 2x–Maximo Kausch (ARG)


First Iranians–Azim Gheychisaz, Iraj Maani, Vaase Mousavi, Majid Nematollahi and Mahmoud Hashemi


First Romanian–Horia Colibasanu
First Spanish woman–Edurne Pasaban
First woman to summit all 14–Oh Eun-Sun (S.K.)
First woman to Top Eight Nepal–Edurne Pasaban (SPA)
First Westerner to summit AN 2x–Peter Hamor (SLK)
First Westerner to summit from both sides–Peter Hamor (SLK)
Oldest Russian climber–Evgeny Vinogradsky, 63
Oldest Polish–Piotr Pustelnik, 58
Oldest South Korean woman–Oh Eun-Sun, 43
Oldest Spaniard–Juanito Oiarzabal, 54
Youngest Polish woman–Kinga Baranowska, 35

VII–Shisha Pangma:

First Spanish woman–Edurne Pasaban
Oldest Japanese–Kazuyoshi Kondo, 68
Second Spanish woman to summit all 14–Edurne Pasaban
Third country were all 14 were summited by women–Spain

VIII–Some doubts during the season:

1. Can the summit of Juanito Oiarzabal on Annapurna be considered valid?

Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA) is one of the most amazing climbers of all time. His restless spirit is bonded to the 8000ers, and for him the end of one “race” was only the beginning of another. Now the Basque wants the “double race”–to be the first climber to summit all 14 twice. He has repeated so far EV, K2, KG, MK, CH, G1 and G2.

On April 27 he stood at the summit of Annapurna to become the second westerner to top out this peak twice. But can his “summit” really be considered valid?

Polemics emerged because Juanito did not come down on foot. He and Carlos Pauner were airlifted from C4 (6,900m) by chopper. In an interview with Desnivel on May 5, the Spaniard said that he “went down by helicopter because of the circumstances–not out of need”. He added: “The chopper was there after flying over the area several times searching for Tolo, then we went down [by helicopter] because of the circumstances–not because we needed to.”.

So the helicopter flight was not a rescue operation. Juanito was not injured, nor ill, nor in immediate danger. He simply was physically fatigued and opted to go out of the mountain; he could have descent on foot–“by his own means”, his words– but by chopper for comfort reasons. This event aroused the attention of those who are concerned about stats with the need to rethink this sport because helicopters are becoming quite popular on Himalaya and Karakoram–not just because of rescue operations. Several climbers are being airlifted to BCs off the mountain which means that it is time to define what climbing expeditions are considered valid and invalid.

For example, can an acclimatized climber can be airlifted to Everest’s South Col, go for the summit and then descend to South Col just in time to take a “air ride” off the mountain? And can an ABC-Summit-ABC endeavor be considered valid just to avoid the dangerous Khumbu Icefall? If Juanito’s “summit” remains valid, this will open a new possibility for climbers. It would only be necessary to ascend the mountain to the summit. On the descent, one could be picked up at any point by a chopper and go home with the “summit” validated.

The debate is open.

ExWeb Note, Aug26: Juanito’s summit of Annapurna is valid according to mountaineering tradition and Explorersweb. The views expressed is the author’s only.

2. Which is the standard route of Shisha Pangma?

The author was questioned by email about the regular route of Shishapangma. The smallest of all 8000ers is a very curious mountain. Looking briefly at numbers, one can assume that it is not a popular peak with only 304 people ascending. But, if included in stats for the climbers who reached the fore summit (Shishapangma Central), numbers go very high with 1,078 people ascending in total.

The difference is explained with two words: summit ridge. The regular route on the N Face (Chinese 1964) and its several variants conduct to Shishapangma Central. Since the ridge between it and the main summit is very dangerous and exposed, most of the climbers decide to stop on the lower fore summit (many of them claiming to be “summiteers”, in spite of everybody knowing that they are a literal ridge away from success).

Because of this in particular, several climbers have been seeking alternatives, going to the left (E Face) to avoid the ridge and proceed directly to the main summit. Therefore, new lines start to appear. The first were the Austrians Obojes and Putz (1980): “Our climbers followed the Chinese first-ascent route to C4. On the summit slopes they went farther east and then climbed straight to he northeast ridge, which they followed to the top” (source: AAJ). This route was repeated for the first time by all the teams in 2010, totaling 19 summits.

Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, more or less, followed this line in 2006. But he went lower on the face, below the serac band, and after it rejoined the straight line on the center to the top. This variation was repeated by Danielle Fischer (USA) and Lhakpa Rita Sherpa (NEP) in 2007. However, they mistakenly went to the Central Summit, and by Andrew Lock (AUS) and Neil Ward (UK) in 2009.

Finally, to the extreme east, after traversing the entire face to the NE Ridge, there is the ‘Russian Route’ of 2002 (Bogomolov and Oleynik), which has not been repeated.

On the other side of the peak, it is also possible to say that the ‘British Route’ on the SW Face of Shishapangma is a regular route. The highest point was reached 57 times by this line from the year 2000 onward. Therefore, 41% of the ascents were performed by it, which makes it a standard also. Of the technical routes on 8000ers this is the most popular indeed.

In conclusion, Shishapangma (like Everest and K2) has two standard routes (Chinese 64 and British 82). In the future, if the Austrian Variant (80) becomes popular, it could transform SH into the first 8000er with three regular routes (or maybe the ‘Chinese Route’ could even be abandoned).

3. The Romeros are the first “family” to summit Everest together?

The wonder boy Jordan Romero (USA), the youngest climber to summit Everest (May 22), made it to the top side-by-side with his father Paul Romero (USA) and his stepmother Karen Lundgren (USA). On their personal website, they proclaim themselves the first family to summit together.

The concept of “family” varies from country to country. The traditional is father, mother and children, but socio-affective instances can make the concept have several more variations. In 2008 the Mallory’s (Canada) summited together on Everest (Dan and his sons Adam and Alan). On May 23, 2010 the Studers (Austria) topped out the Tibetan Flank of the mountain (Wilfred [father], Sylvia [mother], and Claudia [daughter]).

So, if we use the “traditional” definition of family, the Romero’s would be the first. But if used in the non-traditional sense (socio-affective), then they are not.

Also in 2010, other “families” also grabbed the summit:

a. Willie Benegas and Damian Benegas–brothers
b. Lhakpa Rita and Kami Rita–brothers
c. Ruairidh Finlayson and Fionnlagh Finlayson (UK)–brothers
d. Malgorzata Pierz-Penkala and Daniel Mizera (POL)–mother and son
e. John Dahlem and Ryan Dahlem (USA)–father and son
f. Brandon Chalk and Kristine Chalk (USA)–husband and wife
g. Vladimir Fetjek and Denise Fetjek (USA)–husband and wife
h. Richard Birrer and Richard Birrer Jr. (USA)–father and son
i. Bryan Chapman and Michael Chapman (USA)–brothers.

NOTE: This Chronicle is based on preliminary data and is under analysis. Some numbers will be revised in the following months, with possible corrections that might need to be made.

* Previous story :

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, take 2: The final chapter of the women’s race.

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Season’s End Chronicle, Take 1: 8000er Collectors, Everest Serial Summiteers and Lost Climbers.

* Related Links :

StatCrunch: ladies of thin air – beyond Wanda’s footprints.

Oh Eun-Sun summits Annapurna – becomes the first woman 14x8000er summiteer!

Edurne Pasaban the first European and second woman in the world to complete the 14x8000ers.

Piotr Pustelnik summits Annapurna – bags the 14x8000ers!

Veikka Gustafsson completes the 14×8000ers list!

Andrew Lock completes the 14×8000ers list!

* Polish Himalayas – Become a Fan

Exweb Week-In-Review is sponsored by HumanEdgeTech the world’s premier supplier of expedition technology. Our team helps you find ultra light expedition tech that works globally.

e-mail or call +1 212 966 1928

* Read these stories – and more! – at

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Edurne Pasaban the first European and second woman in the world to complete the 14x8000ers.

Shisha Pangma summit debrief and pics: Edurne Pasaban ultimate 8000er.

Posted: May 18, 2010 01:00 pm EST
(ExWeb/Madrid) “I just can’t assume the fact that I am done,” Edurne Pasaban told ExplorersWeb over Sat-phone earlier today from BC. “Sure, I am happy to be safely back in BC after summiting a 8000+ meter peak – just like after any other climb! I’m trying to get a different feeling this time, but everything looks just the same… Oh boy, I think it’ll take some time for the feat to settle down in my mind! Surely, once back home…”

At 1:50pm Nepal Time today Edurne and the rest of Al Filo de lo Imposible team members entered Shisha Pangma BC, thus crossing the finish line of a 12 years-long project. In her fifth attempt on Shisha and precisely one month after summiting Annapurna, Spanish Edurne Pasaban (36) has become the first European and second woman in the world to complete the 14x8000ers.

“Hey it’s not that I am not happy! I am actually elated. But, I think “14x8000ers” and lots of people come to my mind. My parents, friends, climbing mates, supporters – crowds to be grateful to. I am looking around and watching the expedition Doc checking the sherpas, the camera crew sending over images, my mates… There’s much people involved in this – yeah, I summited the peaks, but otherwise I am just a part of a large team project.”

Summit day in Iñaki’s footprints

“Summit day was great – everything went just smoothly” Pasaban recalls. “We had planned to set off at 4 am, but wind was blowing hard at the time, so we decided to wait until dawn. It worked: as sun rose, wind dropped. Then we left C3.”

“Mingma, Asier and I took the lead and broke trail along the traverse below the summit ridge,” said Edurne. “We followed Iñaki route, but not losing altitude as he was forced to do back in 2006 – conditions were so good that we just traversed in a slightly ascending direction, until we reached the couloir Iñaki had used to gain the summit ridge.”

“Conditions at the couloir were, at first, perfect: hard snow. On top we met some more fresh snow, but not for long anyway. The couloir leads to a small saddle – right where the British route from the south side ends. I looked at my watch and I couldn´t believe my eyes: It was 9.00am! I had been worried because that was the first time I had set off on a summit day after dawn; then I realized we had plenty of time.”

“It was also great that we had chosen to climb Iñaki route: the summit ridge was unclimbable: sharp, dangerous with fragile snow slabs, and extremely long! The meters we walked on the edge from the saddle to the summit and back were the scariest in the entire climb.”


Descent was also fast and uneventful. Pasaban team retrieved their gear from C3 and pitched the tents again in C2 (they had no previously set higher camps) still in daylight. Today they took their time and returned in great weather conditions.

“The yaks are coming tomorrow, we will return to Nyalam Thursday, and hopefully hit back KTM on Friday,” Edurne said. “We’re on our 75th day of expedition; it’s getting too long! I am fine, since my parents have come to greet me in Kathmandu and so I am looking forward to meeting them – but my mates are missing their families quite a lot.”

All teams back in BC

Besides Edurne, summiteers were: Pasaban mates Nacho Orviz, Asier Itaguirre, Alex Chicon (Txicon), Mingma Sherpa and Pasang Sherpa; Italians Mario Panzeri and Michele Compagnoni (Alberto eventually turned back); Spanish J, Ramon Madariaga, Isabel garcía, Roberto Rodrigo and Jaume Gibernau, plus a 69 years old Japanese climber, on O2 and together with two sherpas. It is unconfirmed whether the Italian and Madariaga teams were accompanied by sherpas as well.

Al Filo team members were first to reach BC today, according to the expedition doctor Pablo Diaz-Munio, while other teams showed up later in the day. “As they arrived, I checked some climbers with health problems: One shows sympthoms of HAPE, two sustain very sore throaths, other two are seriously dehydrated and another climber feared to be frostbitten (it doesn´t seems so) – nothing too serious, thanks God,” Pablo stated.

A keen mountaineer since she was a child in the Spanish Basque Country, Edurne Pasaban (Tolosa, 1973) soon gained experience in the Alps and Andes’ ranges before her jump into the Himalayan scene: Her first 8000er was Everest, summited in 2001.

Five more huge peaks among the so-called 14 8000ers added up in the following two years: Makalu, Cho Oyu, Lhotse and the Gasherbrums.

In 2004, Edurne joined Spanish TV’s “Al Filo de lo Imposible” (On the Edge of the Impossible) documentary series for an attempt on K2. She succeeded, but at a high toll: frostbites suffered on descent in extreme conditions cost her two toes.

Nevertheless, she also won over Nanga Parbat in 2005 and Broad Peak in 2007.

It was when she counted nine out of 14 summit under her belt, that she entirely focused on completing the “14×8000 Challenge”, together with team-mates Asier Izaguirre, Alez Chicon, Ferran Latorre, and Ignacio Delgado as manager. Thus Manaslu and Dhaulagiri followed in 2008, and Kangchenjunga in 2009. This current year, Edurne jumped on a double-header bet, comprising the highly dangerous Annapurna and Shisha Pangma (which she had already attempted four times!), teaming up with the usual mates plus nacho orviz, who substituded Ferran Latorre (injured on a partial ski descent on Anna).

The gambling paid off and May17th at 11.30am Nepal Time, she became 14x8000er summiteer.

* Website spanish climber: Edurne Pasaban

Climbers who have reached the summit of all 14 eight-thousanders

Field 02 lists people who have peaked all 14 without bottled oxygen.

All without
O2 (order)
Name Period born at age Nationality
1 1 Reinhold Messner 1970-1986 1944 42 Flag of Italy Italian
2 Jerzy Kukuczka 1979-1987 1948 39 Flag of Poland Polish
3 2 Erhard Loretan 1982-1995 1959 36 Flag of Switzerland Swiss
4 Carlos Carsolio 1985-1996 1962 33 Flag of Mexico Mexican
5 Krzysztof Wielicki 1980-1996 1950 46 Flag of Poland Polish
6 3 Juanito Oiarzabal 1985-1999 1956 43 Flag of Spain Spanish
7 Sergio Martini 1983-2000 1949 51 Flag of Italy Italian
8 Young Seok Park 1993-2001 1963 38 Flag of South Korea Korean
9 Hong Gil Um 1988-2001 1960[6] 40 Flag of South Korea Korean
10 4 Alberto Iñurrategi 1991-2002[7] 1968 33 Flag of Spain Spanish
11 Wang Yong Han 1994-2003 1966 37 Flag of South Korea Korean
12 5[8] Ed Viesturs 1989-2005 1959 46 Flag of the United States American
13 6[9][10][11] Silvio Mondinelli 1993-2007 1958 49 Flag of Italy Italian
14 7[12] Ivan Vallejo 1997-2008 1959 49 Flag of Ecuador Ecuador
15 8 [13] Denis Urubko 2000-2009 1973 35 Flag of Kazakhstan Kazakhstan
16 Ralf Dujmovits 1990-2009 1961[14] 47 Flag of Germany German
17 9 Veikka Gustafsson 1993-2009 1968 41 Flag of Finland Finnish
18 [16] Andrew Lock 1993-2009 1961 48 Flag of FinlandAustralia
19 10 João Garcia 1993-2010 1967 43 Portugal Portuguese
20 Piotr Pustelnik 1990-2010 1951 59 Poland Polish
21 [21] Oh Eun-Sun 1997-2010 1966 44 South Korea Korean
Edurne Pasaban
2001-2010 1973 36 Spain Spanish


Edurne Pasaban

** Previous story :

Veikka Gustafsson completes the 14×8000ers list!

Andrew Lock completes the 14×8000ers list!

Oh Eun-Sun summits Annapurna – becomes the first woman 14x8000er summiteer!

Piotr Pustelnik summits Annapurna – bags the 14x8000ers!

* Polish Himalayas – Become a Fan

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