There’s Life After Frostbite: Anna Pfaff Back to the Himalaya

A year ago, Anna Pfaff was dealing with having six toes amputated due to frostbite, and the uncertainty of how the trauma would impact her life and her climbing career. It was great to see her back and smiling widely from the summit of Kyajo Ri in the Himalaya.

Pfaff sustained severe frostbite after climbing Alaska’s Mt. Huntington with Priti Wright. The weather delay she spent on the glacier after the climb, waiting for the bush plane, worsened her injuries. Despite all the medical care, doctors had to amputate five toes from her right foot and one from her left.

Since then, Pfaff has gone through a difficult recovery.

“I have witnessed her willingness to overcome adversity by taking her first steps again after the amputations, gaining her balance to start running, biking, walking, and climbing again,” said Andres Marin, one of Pfaff’s partners on this latest climb. “I’m not going to lie, not everything has been smooth. There have been plenty of lows, frustrations, and sadness. But…the focus has been on moving forward.”

Progressively, Anna Pfaff felt ready to return to her beloved Himalaya. She, Marin, Ghalchen Shuwaz, Subash Tamang, and photographer Sandro Gromen-Hayes chose the scenic Kyajo Ri for her comeback This spiky 6,200m mountain lies in the middle of the Khumbu, near Namche Bazaar. It is classified as a trekking peak, but its more technical ascent keeps it free of crowds, compared to Island, Lobuche, or Mera Peaks. The team first hiked up the rocky Lu Ri peak (5,216m) for acclimatization.

After her release from the hospital last year, Pfaff could barely walk.

“The adventure differed from that of first ascents in distant places to the adventure of struggling to understand the mental and physical ailments that come with the loss of one’s body parts,” Pfaff wrote on her social media.

“Watching her lead every pitch and take her last steps toward the summit fills my heart with happiness and immense gratitude for what life has to offer,” noted Marin.

The climbers raise their fists in triumph on a snowy summit.

Anna Pfaff and Andres Marin on the summit of Kyajo Ri. Photo: Subash Tamang

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.