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ExWeb fall 2009 Shisha Pangma special report final: false summit claims - and the winner is...

Posted: Nov 12, 2009 01:57 pm EST

(MountEverest.net) Among all the incomplete, inaccurate or plainly wrong statements from Shisha Pangma this season, Annelie Pompe and Johanna Öhrns story gets the cake: a chain of lies and forged images eventually boiling down to major embarrassment in their homeland Sweden.

By at first publicly claiming summit and then trying to defend the central point against all evidence, the women soon attracted the eyes of climbing experts.

Aided by local and international mountaineers, one Swedish climbing veteran finally did what the journalists failed: unveiling a mess of false statements, contradictions, and pictures both stolen and manipulated.

The story sports the usual hostility towards messengers of uncomfortable questions, media bias and in the end, a total lack of respect for readers, supporters and fellow climbers. The plot is so surreal that it would have been funny, had it not been so sad.

The Summit!

"I stand on the summit of wonderful Shisha Pangma, 8013 (sic) meter above the sea, Swede Annelie Pompe, 28, was quoted in Swedish media on September 30th.

There was no doubt: The summit is achieved, mate Johanna Öhrn confirmed in her dispatch that same day.

And just to make sure: Edmund Spoden from Belgium and Tashi Sherpa successfully summitted Mt. Shisha Pangma today, 30th Sept. 2009 without use of supplementary O2, the team's local outfitter Rolwaling Excursion chimed in.*

Now theres only the other mountain left, Annelie went on. Prior to the expedition, Pompe had stated that she was aiming for a Shisha-Cho Oyu double header, to complete a highest and deepest record, which would include a deep dive in combination with the climb.

"...she is such a nice girl"

The two Swedish novices, a Belgian climber and one Sherpa had seemingly achieved a remarkable goal, succeeding where seasoned veterans such as Juanito Oiarzabal had failed. But for one detail: 8013 meters? Shisha Pangma is 8027 meters. What had happened to the remaining distance?

It took a while (and a number of heated emails from upset readers) for the media editors to at least correct Pompe to "Central Summit."

Yet instead of investigating, journalists protected the climbers. One big mainstream newspaper simply removed a (polite) online correction post while an outdoor mag editor urged ExWeb about the popular Annelie, "be kind to her, she is such a nice girl." Others minimized the error as a well-intended webmaster typo.

The tipping point

Lack of watchdog reporters was not new to local mountaineers. Six Swedes had been on or around Shisha's fore summit before - five had declared success - only Fredrik Ericsson had made clear that this was actually not the "tippity top." And who can forget Swedish Fredrik Strang's heroic rescue claims from K2 last year.

But this time, the wild quotes and lack of factual evidence proved too much even for the battered and sadly ignored flock of Swedish mountaineers trying to keep it real.

Adventurer and writer Janne Corax reported on his website: I was expecting the usual Shisha lie: to claim a summit without specifying that the point reached is not the massifs highest, but the easier, secondary central top. However, those summit calls were just the starting point for one of the biggest scandals in Swedens climbing History.

The stolen summit pic

Annelie had said that rope was fixed to the very top, a fact indicating that she had only reached the ridge above C3. Comments followed on related blogs, mainly from increasingly skeptic readers demanding proof.

In result, a "summit pic" soon went up on Johannas blog - clearly picturing at least Shishas Central summit.

"Seems all OK," ExplorersWeb editors concluded when asked to double check, "provided it's them in the picture."

Janne Corax did a quick Google search. My first thought was: its amazing how fast Google indexes new images, Corax wrote in his account. Something was wrong with the picture though the Google image showed someone in a red down overall, someone who was missing in Johannas image."

"Astonished, I surfed back to Johanna's blog. Sure, it was the same picture, but it had been manipulated."

"I was flabbergasted. The original image showed four people; Johanna's only three one had been removed in order to make everything look right. Later I found out that the red-dressed figure was Nicola, a member in Jamie McGuinness P-H Shisha Pangma 2003 expedition."

Sure enough, the image was from years before, and the climbers in it were not Johanna, Annelie and Edmund, but members in a 2003 Shisha Pangma expedition launched by NZ outfitter Project-Himalaya.

Everest images illustrate Cho Oyu epic

Meanwhile, the women headed for Cho Oyu. The attempt was called off a couple of days later due to bad weather. Johanna dispatched epic tales of 180km/h winds sweeping the mountain; a figure contradicted by other teams' reports but illustrated by telling pictures on the expedition blog.

Again though, one photo of "climbers in a blizzard and flattened tents" was traced to the Leipzig 2005 Everest Expedition; another was from the Lhotse face shot by yet another climber. Further check of Annelie's Shisha Pangma images showed they were all from her earlier Cho Oyu expedition, in no way explaining this.

Attack best defense?

At the time of editing this story, Annelie Pompe - the most publicized of the two women - was still active in Swedish online media, persisting in her claim of Central Summit.

On her blogs at Utsidan.se blog and Swedens edition of Outside Mag she jumps posters asking for explanations, blames poverty, sponsors and the media (she was forced to please them), and offers yet another summit image - this time showing all four climbers sitting on the alleged Central summit.**

Tashi Sherpa said it was the Central peak, our altimeter showed 8008m (ed note: it's unclear what happened to her original quote "8013 meter above the sea") and the Chinese, who have a solid reputation (sic), said they were up to the Central peak, Pompe insists.***

Finally, she posted a video as ultimate summit proof on Outside.se. Asked about his opinion, American Nick Rice was clear: Still not the Central Summit... you can see the ridge to the Central Summit partially at around 16 seconds into the video (on the left side of the frame)... After the Central Summit, the ridge goes down slightly, not up... so they are STILL on the plateau just before the ridge to the Central Summit.

*Ed note: Rolwaling recently added "Central Summit" on its home page.

**The 8008 "Central Summit" bump is heavily corniced and hardly has room for one climber to stand on, let alone four.

***The Chinese-Tibetan team only fixed rope up to the North Summit, SummitClimbs leader Dan Mazur stated (check this series first part previously published on mountEverest.net).

The investigations core is available in "climbing-detective and self-appointed prosecutor " Janne Corax's blog posts. Here is the base-article and Corax's answers (both in Swedish) to Annelie's summit images and video.

The stolen images have been deleted on Johanna's blog so please check the following screen dumps on Janne Corax's blog:

"Summit photo"

Stolen photo from Jamie, #1
Stolen photo from Jamie, #2
Stolen "Cho Oyu image" on Johanna's blog, actually showing Lhotse face - Original image
Flattened tents - manipulated - Original - Everest 2005
Photo claiming to be Cho Oyu

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...


What's missing? Left: Project-Himalaya climbers arriving Shisha Central in 2003, courtesy of Jamie McGuinness. Right: summit pic published on Johanna's website - sans climber in red - check! (click to enlarge).
Central summit is a small bump with hardly room for one climber to stand on it. Yet in this image, Annelie (in blue), Johanna, Tashi Sherpa and Edmund Spoden are apparently quite comfortable there. Latest photo alleging the climbers on Shisha Central posted by Annelie on Utsidan.se forum (click to enlarge).
Left: Screen shot of a currently deleted image showing "tough conditions on Cho Oyu" on Johanna's blog. Right: Original image by Ciprian Popoviciu from the Lhotse Face on Everest. (Click to enlarge).
Left: Screen shot of a currently deleted image on Johanna's blog, of supposedly flattened tents on Cho Oyu. Right: photo by the Leipzig Everest team, posted on the 2005 expedition website.