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The new Cho Oyu: Pumori

Posted: Sep 18, 2008 04:00 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) Up to 2005, 472 people had summited Pumori and 42 had died (13 after summiting). Compare Ama Dablam with more than 2000 summits and "only" 18 fatalities, or Everest with over 3500 summits and 209 deaths.

Chinese screenings are forcing outfitters and climbers to look for other peaks. Baruntse, Ama Dablam and Pumori are put on the new menu and although they don't offer the altitude of Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma; climbing them is challenging enough.

The lure of the bride in white

Outfitters such as Peak Freaks have rerouted from Cho Oyu to Pumori (7121m), where also mountain guide Fabrizio Zangrilli is headed after Nanga Parbat.

White and sweet as an ice cream cone, Pumori poses a striking image and a beautiful temptation to climbers. "Unmarried Daughter" in Sherpa language, climbers sometimes refer to Pumori as "Everest's Daughter" for her close location to the big peak.

Sitting by Everest south side BC, Pumori offers a wonderful trek to its slopes and properly fixed, is not that hard to climb. The views from the summit are amazing: The high Tibetan plateau to one side, Nepal to the other, plus perhaps the best view of Everest Western Cwm.

The Spanish curse

But Pumori's avalanche-prone slopes make the mountain a very exposed climbing target. This "bittersweet daughter of Everest" has had many fatalities, mainly due to falls and avalanches.

19 of the 42 fatalities (up to 2005) on Pumori happened in only five avalanche incidents; all slides taking place between 6250 and 6800 meters and killing several people on each occasion.

To Spanish climbers, Pumori is cursed.

In 1989, four Spanish climbers died while traversing Pumoris exposed slopes at 4 am. September 27, 2001, a new team of Spanish climbers arrived. Slightly late for the season; they set one high camp at 6200m. All in their early twenties (the veteran in the group was 27 years old), Pumori was to be their first Himalayan big mountain experience.

They left C1 (6200m) early morning. Soon after, a huge avalanche swept the slope between 6300-6500 altitudes. Fearing the worst, one of the team mates called for a helicopter from BC. Frantically, they tried to establish contact with the climbers on the radio, hour after hour. But only silence was the answer from the upper slopes of Pumori.

The first aerial surveillance confirmed the reach of the avalanche. Then two sleeping bags were spotted among the ice rubble. A rescue team immediately departed from Spain.

Edurne's nightmare

Edurne Pasaban, who was in Nepal, experienced one of the most bitter moments of her mountaineering career. Only one week after her climbing mate Pepe Garces fell to his death while descending from the summit of Dhaula, Edurne had to cancel her plane tickets home and rush to the Khumbu glacier, to help search for the missing climbers.

All efforts were to no avail; bodies couldnt be recovered due to the extreme avalanche danger, in fact another avalanche hit two of the rescuers. Five young Spanish climbers were finally left to rest forever in the arms of the Unmarried Daughter of Everest.

Peak Freaks Expedition List for Mt. Pumori via the South Ridge Oct. 2008

1. Tim Rippel- Canada- guide
2. Hugo Searle- USA- assistant guide
3. Carl Lindstrom - USA
4. Tim Irvine- Australia
5. Arkhom Kijwanichprasert - Thailand
6. Martin McHugh - UK
7. Grant Bullington - Canada
8. TA Loeffler- Canada
9. Duncan Dew - Australia
10. Ameila Powys- Australia
11. Rick Sladewski- USA
12. Wissam Al-Joyyoussi- Jordon
13. Adrian Petitt- UK
14. Wake Williams- Canada
15. Ivan Nolet- Canada
16. Patrick Grillo- Canada
17. Mark Mangles- Australia

Sherpa team
1. Dendi Sherpa
2. Ngmia Sherpa
3. Jangbu Sherpa
4. Lhakpa Sherpa
5. Ang Nina Sherpa
6. Desh Kumar Sherpa
7. Ang Karsung Sherpa
8. Lhakpa Gelgan Sherpa


Image of Pumori, copyright Helsinki University of Technology.