China forces Edurne Pasaban to change plans: team off to Annapurna, then Shisha

Posted: Mar 04, 2010 04:34 pm EST

"It's hard right now," Edurne told ExWeb's Angela Benavides. "Only yesterday, our outfitter in Kathmandu forwarded us the following email from CTMA (China/Tibet Mountaineering Association):"

"Just now we get informed that all expeditions could be issued [climbing] permits in April only, please kindly postpone your first Shispangma Expedition till April, so sorry."

Spoiled plans

Hoping to finish her 14x8000ers quest this spring, Edurne planned to climb Shisha Pangma north face before mid April, aiming for an early summit push via Iñaki's variation route.

Summit or not, the early climb would serve as acclimatization for the next target, Annapurna, allowing the least exposure on the peak's avalanche prone slopes in a fast, single summit push.

In addition, it would give Edurne a chance to become the first female 14x8000er summiteer. "My main goal is to complete all 14 8000ers but, honestly, why not also give myself a chance for the first?," Edurne stated at a press conference two days ago.

Edurne's closest competitor South Korean Miss Oh has only Annapurna left for the record. She is expected in BC by mid April.

Off to a lonely Annapurna

The Spanish team applied for the Shisha climbing permit to start on March 8th. Chinese authorities were hesitant to accept climbing teams that early, but agreed to grant a permit starting March 16. Edurne fixed plans based on that schedule, with a short training climb on Island Peak before crossing the Tibetan border mid March.

After the Chinese retraction, the situation has abruptly changed. Edurne and her team are left with no other choice than to kick off their double header on Annapurna, in near-winter conditions and with no one else around to help fix ropes or break trail.

"That's OK, we are bringing 3,500m of rope - enough for the entire route," Edurne said. "Also, Nacho Orviz (with 4x8000ers) will arrive on Monday and join us for the climb on Anna."

Adapting fast

"It's been very hard, however, to turn all previous plans upside down in less that 20 hours," Pasaban added. "I had geared-up a small, light party for a fast climb on Annapurna; in the last few hours, it has developed into a mega-expedition ready to fix ropes and set up camps for weeks."

"In spite of all the problems though, I feel great. Once I accepted the changed game plan, I'm eager to get there and see what conditions we're up against. Hopefully, we will set off towards BC by next week."

At the start of 2009, Spanish (Basque) Edurne Pasaban, Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Italian Nives Meroi were the three main women in place to become the first females to summit all 8000ers, tied with 11 mountains each. The situation changed when Korean Oh Eun-Sun came out of nowhere and summited several peaks in tandem; now claiming only Annapurna left to crown the list.

Edurne (37) summited Kangchenjunga in spring, 2009 and attempted Shisha Pangma in fall. She's got thus Shisha and Annapurna left to go.

Many mountaineers object to the 14, 8000ers race - which has claimed lives of both men and women. In addition, while the "first" will receive the biggest fame; some of the women have out of personal standard - prioritized climbing style and unusual routes before the list, which doesn't account for added difficulty.

A few years ago for example, Nives and Romano were the only to summit K2 without oxygen, Sherpas or fixed rope on the upper sections. That year only two other climbers reached the summit, heavily supported.

In the end, the position of the first woman in the world to summit all 14, 8000ers (Messner was the first male) is likely to go to the one who wants it more (and not necessarily to the one who "deserves" it most.) In any case, all four women represent the foremost female high altitude mountaineers alive today.


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L/R: Alex Chicon, Edurne Pasaban, Asier Izaguirre, Ferran Latorre and expedition Doc Pablo Munio at a press conference in Madrid on March 2nd, 2010.
courtesy Endesa, SOURCE