Controversy About Who Received Visas for Shishapangma; More About Dong Hong Juan

Three days after two teams reached Shishapangma’s summit, photos, videos, and some information reached social media. But a bitter argument between Harila and her Sherpa guides from 2022 has partly overshadowed the story of the climb. They couldn’t obtain visas to climb in Tibet and indirectly wondered whether she didn’t want to share the record for climbing the 14×8,000’ers the fastest — an accusation she dismisses. (The accusations actually went both ways, very indirect from both sides.) Meanwhile, China’s Dong Hong Juan enjoys her new status as the first woman to reach the actual summits of all 14 of the 8,000’ers, as reckoned by

Climbalaya team

Climbalaya team summiters were Tenjen Sherpa “Lama”,  Kristin Harila, Matias Miklebust, Viridiana Alvarez, Sophie Lavaud, Ngima Rita Sherpa, Pemba Tenzing Sherpa, and Chhiring Wangchu Sherpa, the outfitter confirmed. Here’s a summit video they shared:

Kristin Harila confirmed that the summit push took 22h from what she called Camp 2.5. (During the climb, the team stopped and pitched their tents lower than expected because of high winds.)

Sherpa guides fixed ropes and used supplementary O2. She didn’t specify their route to the main summit. But photos and the tracker suggest that they traversed below the summit area in order to reach the ridge right at the highest point, rather than climb the entire ridge from the west, passing the central summit.

The climbers stand on a snowy summit, a white sky behind them.

Left to right: Tenjen Sherpa Lama and Kristin Harila on the summit of Shishapangma.


Viridiana Alvarez reached Base Camp one day after Harila. The Mexican climber climbed with a twisted ankle. After the effort, she admits that the ankle is definitely not well but was happy with her success. Alvarez claims that Shishapangma was her ninth 8,000’er. However, noted that it is actually her eighth since she only reached the foresummit of Manaslu.

Sophie Lavaud has now only Nanga Parbat to go in order to complete her own 14×8,000’ers list (with oxygen). Since she is a joint citizen of France, Switzerland, and Canada, she stands to break three national records as the first 14×8,000m summiter from those countries.

Lavaud poses wearing several khata scarves and a diplomma, surrounded by Nepalse climbers, in an office-like place, apparently in Tibet.

Sophie Lavaud and the Sherpa team hold her summit certificate. Photo: Mingma Sherpa


Quarrel over sharing speed record

Kristin Harila first posted from Tingri on Friday, but not about the climb. Her first after-summit was her version of a public exchange between her and her previous Sherpa guides Dawa Ongju and Pasdawa Sherpa. She had climbed all her 8,000’ers in 2022 with that pair.

The bitter exchange seems to revolve around Harila’s quest to summit all 14×8,000’ers in less than six months, a speed record. Like Harila, Dawa Ongchu and Pasdawa hoped to climb in Tibet this spring. But after receiving a climbing permit, their visa to China was ultimately rejected. Dawa Ongchu wrote an open letter wondering why they were rejected when Harila (and others) had received permission. He also stated Harila had depended totally on Pasdawa and himself to reach her goals.

Harila’s reply noted cryptically that after topping out on Manaslu in the fall of 2022, she had switched from 8K Expeditions (Ongchu and Pasdawa’s company) to Seven Summit Treks “for several reasons.” She attempted Cho Oyu and Manaslu with SST in the last two months. Finally, she climbed in Tibet with Climbalaya.

Pasdawa and Dawa Ongchu are currently guiding on Everest with 8K. In their statement, Ongchu and Pasdawa said they didn’t understand why Harila switched outfitters.

Three climbers on the summit, all with faces covered by O2 masks

Harila (left) and two other unidentified climbers on the summit of Shishapangma. Photo: Kristin Harila/Instagram


In the end, the crossfire benefited no one. For those interested in the details, here are the versions of Dawa Ongchu, Kristin Harila and, posted after the others, Pasdawa Sherpa.

The mysterious record lady from China

After the Climbalaya team, Imagine Nepal shared the news of an unheralded woman who had been on the summit as well: Dong Hong Juan of China.

Dong is quite the mystery. She never gives interviews, even to Chinese media. She pays for her own expeditions and has no external funding or sponsorships, so she has no need to promote her activities or share details after them. Apparently, she is not rich but has a good job, Imagine Nepal told ExplorersWeb. The company has outfitted most of her climbs since 2015.

She was keen to reach the true summit of all the 8,000m peaks. For that reason, she re-did her climbs on Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Broad Peak, Annapurna, and Shishapangma. She climbed Shishapangma in 2018, only to find out later that the team had stopped at a foresummit.

According to research by about the 8,000m summit areas, Dong is the first woman to climb to the actual highest points of all 14 peaks. Not everyone in the mountaineering community agrees with this retroactive judgment on historical climbs. After watching Dong’s summit video, below, Eberhard Jurglaski confirmed to Explorersweb that she was on the main summit when the video was taken.


Oxygen and support

As for style, Dong was supported on Shishapangma by Tibetan climbers — identified only as Lhukdhar and Thumps. As usual, she used supplementary oxygen. For those curious about it, the closest candidate to become the first woman to summit all 14 peaks without supplementary O2 is Nives Meroi of Italy. Meroi is currently attempting the first ascent of Kabru South’s west face. She has only Manaslu left to re-do.

Meroi told ExplorersWeb that she had considered returning to Manaslu and climbing to the true summit with her husband Romano Benet. On their first climb, they later discovered that they had mistakenly stopped below the highest point. But the prospect of the crowds on the mountain deterred her.

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.