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ExplorersWeb fall 2009 Shisha Pangma true summit special report, part 1

Posted: Nov 10, 2009 03:02 am EST

(MountEverest.net) Climb until you reach a point where you can't climb any higher. Mountain tops are that simple. Or are they?

Most every summit claim on Shisha last month were countered by contradictory reports and, in some cases, illustrated by stolen images and false certificates.

Why we climb

The late Iñaki Ochoa told ExWeb some years ago that probably half of the 8000ers summits listed on AdventureStats, Himalaya Database and other places are false. In light of recent events, it's scary how right he possibly was.

Attempts at cheating are common and increasing. They were grave on Manaslu last fall and went beyond all precedents on Shisha this season.

The only clear facts come from the mountains south side, where no one was even close to the summit. Teams came and left all but young Italian Roby Piantoni, who lost his life at the attempt.

As for Shishas north side, good news is that nobody died. Only two summits (pending) are reported there Andrew Lock and Neil Ward on October 2nd.

ExplorersWeb editors have in the past weeks investigated Shisha Pangma fall claims, testimonies and corrections. Here the results, including some remaining loose knots. It seems clear that the international climbing community needs to take a look around and inside itself; to reflect on what we are doing, where we are headed and most of all why.

Shisha Pangma's "other summits"

If you try to reach Shisha's top from the north side, your climb will go over a number of bumps until the big crux; a long and very avalanche prone knife ridge leading to the summit.

Most teams stop before this ridge, on a bump located at 8008m. This season the fixed ropes ended even lower, about 100 feet (30-50 m) below the 8000 meter mark.

The 8008 bump is dubbed Central summit, it is heavily corniced and hardly has room for one climber to stand on. The lower point is called the North summit.

From what I understand the 'North Summit' is a bit of a rock step 100 metres or so in distance and maybe 50 metres in altitude before the Central Summit on the ridge, straight up from Camp 3 on the north face, Andrew Lock explained to ExplorersWeb. It is not any kind of summit. I've been up that ridge to the Central Summit twice before, so I know it well.


When SummitClimb claimed the Central summit on October 1st, their picture showed six people standing on it. Folks in BC objected, this was the North point they said, had the photo been taken in the other direction, it would show a ridge leading to another summit behind.

"We followed the lines the Tibetans (Chinese team) had fixed to the end, SummitClimb leader Dan Mazur later explained in an email. They ended at the North Summit."

"We thought we had paid the Tibetans to fix to the Central Summit. For some reason they had stopped at the North Summit. Wish we had known that in advance as we certainly would have brought more rope with us so we could fix to the Central Summit," the expedition leader concluded and the information was fast corrected on the outfitters website.

Yet SummitClimb were not alone. What about the other commercial expeditions? And what about independent climbers such as Juanito Oiarzabal (with one Sherpa), Nick Rice, Mario Panzeri, Tolo Calafat and Horia Colibasanu on a summit bid which (reportedly) ended on Shishas Central Summit on September 27th?

The answer in this series second part.

All entries in this series:
ExplorersWeb fall 2009 Shisha Pangma true summit special report, part 1
ExWebs fall 2009 Shisha Pangma special, part 2: Central Summit, virtually there?
ExWeb fall 2009 Shisha Pangma special report final: false summit claims - and the winner is...
Shisha Pangma TRUE summit report: and the winner is...


SummitClimb's top image showed climbers in a spot too big for the Central outcrop. "Had the photo been taken in the other direction, it would show a ridge leading to another summit behind," climbers added. Image courtesy of SummitClimb (click to enlarge).
SummitClimb in their last steps up Shisha. Image courtesy of SummitClimb (click to enlarge).
Climbing straight up from Camp 3 on the north face of Shisha Pangma you will reach the "north summit" (in the foreground, where the photographer is standing and where spare oxygen bottles are located). From here a ridge leads to the Central summit (highest point in image), beyond which an even worse ridge leads to the main top (not in image). Photo from the September 27 summit push (covered in part 2) courtesy of Nick Rice (click to enlarge).