Stefi Troguet, Back for Dhaulagiri, Broad Peak, and K2

8000ers
Stefi Troguet ski mountaineering in Andorra. Photo: Stefi Troguet

Behind Stefi Troguet’s bright red lipstick and 100-watt smile is a serious athlete who loves the mountains

Stefi Troguet’s entree two years ago into high-altitude mountaineering showed how to blend a climbing career with 21st-century social media.

We first noticed her on a 2019 Instagram post, which showed a young woman in brightly colored tights and red lipstick — a most unusual sight in northern Pakistan. Her image and attitude raised eyebrows at first. Born in Andorra in the 1990s, she is a child of the new century and feels at ease on social media, but also had to fight comments about “being too colorfully dressed or showing too much flesh”.

Three weeks later, she showed her true colors — and her eternal red lipstick smile — by climbing Nanga Parbat in rather tough conditions while keeping pace with Sergi Mingote, Ali Sadpara, Cala Cimenti, and Nirmal Purja. Then last autumn, she shared a video dancing and singing on Manaslu’s final ridge, without O2.

“The feedback on social media eventually improved and now I feel I have a virtual family [there],” she says. And a fairly large one: 53,000 Instagram followers and 10,000 on Twitter. Not bad for a 28-year-old ski coach and mountain guide who has just started her career and who lives in a country the size of New Orleans.

This week, in an interview with ExplorersWeb, she reflects on what and how she wants to climb. In the short term, she is back for Dhaulagiri, Broad Peak, and K2, with no oxygen mask to cover her permanent, frost-proof, red-lipsticked smile. And she discusses the loss of most of her “mountain family”, who sadly perished this winter, on K2 and elsewhere.

In 2019,  an all-too-relaxed Stefi Troguet joined Ali Sadpara in Skardu to climb Nanga Parbat…

….and some weeks later, battling a blizzard on Nanga Parbat.

Part of her talent is that she really is as bright, as giddy about mountains, and as friendly as she looks on the screen. During the lockdown, she gave a positive alternative to doomscrolling by sharing her training sessions on her flat’s rooftop. In Andorra, as in Spain, even short walks were forbidden for weeks.

As soon as restrictions eased, she ran to the Alps and climbed and skied virtually everything in her path, preparing to climb Broad Peak and K2 this summer.

Troguet ski touring in the mountains of her “pretty little country” of Andorra, as she describes it.

What Troguet hadn’t expected was losing to K2 many of the friends with whom she had summited her first 8,000er, including her “favorite soul” in Pakistan, Ali Sadpara.

“I am aware that accidents cannot be ruled out when climbing 8,000’ers,” she says. “Death and pain are cards in the deck we play with in the Himalaya, and I have spoken about it honestly with my family. But when I assume that danger, I was thinking of myself — not my friends! So I was totally in shocked when I heard about Sergi, then Cala [Cimenti, killed in an avalanche in the Alps], and anguished when Ali went missing.”

“Their loss hit me harder than I could have expected. For two weeks, I was unable to train or go out. I played over and over the videos that I had recorded from Nanga and Manaslu, especially those with Ali. He was like a second father to me.

“The relationships you build on expeditions are unique. I have many friends, especially a great group of girlfriends with whom I have grown up. I have traveled, I have lived… But while time in the mountains is brief, you bond with the people you live with so intensely, sharing everything, including very difficult circumstances. It was so hard!

“I got physically sick, I had difficulty breathing. First, I thought I had COVID so I took the tests, but doctors said it was anxiety. Eventually, I became able to watch the videos without bursting into tears and simply recalling the happy memories. Then I knew I was ready to move on.

“On the other hand, I felt I couldn’t just go to K2 after all that had happened. I needed something to clear my mind first, a progressive return to high altitude — another mountain. And then Jonathan García mentioned Dhaulagiri. So why not? The training is done and the mountain is there waiting. We’re leaving next week.

García, Alex Txikon’s partner on his attempt to climb Everest last winter, will team up with Troguet. “We’ve tuned up really well, despite not being able to train together through the winter,” she said. Although they both live in the Pyrenees, they have had to stay in their areas, Troguet in Andorra and García in Spain’s Benasque Valley.

Rather than a climbing mecca, Andorra is famous mainly for its ski resorts and its shopping, thanks to low taxes. “I grew up surrounded by mountains, so I really never noticed them as something extraordinary. From a very young age, my brother and I trained hard in downhill skiing and soon started competing,” Troguet recalled.

The culture shock came when she left home to go to college in Barcelona. “That is the dream of many Andorran youngsters, to go and study in the big city,” she said. “But I lasted two weeks. It was far too big for me. I simply packed and returned home, to my mom’s utter dismay.”

There was even more parental disappointment when Troguet decided not to go to college at all but instead became certified as a downhill and telemark instructor and trekking guide. She worked hard — “My only times off were Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but with the money I made that year, I traveled around the world.”

In that sense, she breaks the mold of wealthy children populating Himalayan base camps. “I self-financed my expedition to Nanga Parbat. Then I decided I wanted to go to Manaslu as well, so I sold my car — and you can’t imagine how much I loved that car, that was my grandfather’s inheritance! But I wanted Manaslu more.”

Her passion for mountaineering began at home in the Pyrenees, but soon her ambitions turned to the Seven Summits: Elbrus and Kilimanjaro. On a trek in Nepal, she climbed Mera Peak, then fell in love, as many do, with lovely Ama Dablam. To climb it, she trusted a young Nepali who had just started a guiding company called Elite Himalayan Adventures. His name was Nirmal Purja.

Stefi Troguet on Ama Dablam, above Camp 1, in 2018.

With Elite, she climbed Nanga Parbat, her first 8,000’er, in summer 2019. Her perma-smile in the pictures does not reflect the struggle. “It was very hard,” she said. “We spent the night in Camp 4, before the summit push, with six people crammed into a two-person tent. That’s an experience I do not recommend to anyone. I could really feel how it must have been on K2, with people jammed from the lack of tents in Camp 3.

“In my case, when the time came to set off toward the summit, I could barely move. Each step was torture and my poor acclimatization didn’t help. Somehow, I got moving, went higher, and finally, I saw myself on the top.” The video below documents Troguet’s Nanga Parbat expedition (in Catalan, with English subtitles).

On Manaslu, she experienced a more crowded mountain but reaffirmed her natural ability to acclimatize fast. On neither of her 8K summits has she used O2. She plans to continue in this style on the three 8,000m peaks this year.

On Dhaulagiri, she and Jonathan García will share Base Camp with an international all-female team and probably Spaniard Carlos Soria, now 82, still whaling away at the mountain he has attempted a dozen times.

“The paces will be surely different since we are the only ones climbing without O2,” she says. The pair will acclimatize by first trekking to Everest Base Camp  — “You can get some altitude in a very comfortable way” — then trekking to Dhaulagiri as well. The other climbers will fly into Base Camp.

Troguet’s genuine enthusiasm for the mountains contrasts with the broad public perception of competition and drama. “I’d rather share the human side of climbing, the joy it brings to me, and how I live the experience,” she says.

She doesn’t dismiss the idea of climbing all 14 8,000’ers, but is in no hurry. “Right now, I am preparing for the three expeditions immediately ahead. Then we’ll see.”

She would use oxygen for emergencies in case of AMS, but not to climb, she says. “It’s about me and the mountain. If my body says I have to turn around, I will.”

Troguet singing and dancing near the summit of Manaslu.

Troguet hopes that the Dhaulagiri experience will help her to find the peace of mind she needs to face K2 later this summer. Nevertheless, she plans to spend as little time as possible on what the Baltis call Chogori.

“The plan is to acclimatize properly on Broad Peak, which is more accessible and hopefully less crowded,” she explains. “Of course, I’ll try to reach the summit [of Broad Peak]. However, the main plan is to head to K2 once acclimatized and launch a summit push as soon as conditions permit. We expect more people on that mountain, with increased risk of crowding and rockfall.”

She will fly to Pakistan on June 4 and expects to reach Base Camp a week later, which will put her ahead of most teams. However, she expects the route on K2 to be fixed by the time she arrives.

“K2 is looking more and more as Everest, and each year, one of the biggest teams is in charge of fixing the route asap and placing new ropes,” Troguet says. “The downside is that every year new ropes become entangled with several old ones, which is actually dangerous, as we have seen this past winter.”

She likes Sajid Sadpara’s plan to clean up the mountain and if she can be there during that project, she hopes to help. Finally, when asked how to keep a perfectly red smile on an 8,000 peak, she admits, “I retouch it from time to time. It all started as a coincidence but progressively it has become a sort of personal brand.”

She does not yet have a cosmetics sponsor but it wouldn’t be surprising if one comes knocking soon.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Vanina
Vanina
8 months ago

An amazing person! Wish her the best of luck!

+6
Tara
Tara
8 months ago

To me, an amazing woman – climber is Tamara Lunger, for example. A real climber, able to climb as equal partner, not jummaring behind someone far more experienced. Not just a good athlete, but a real climber who has climbed many difficult walls even before she tackled her first 8000er. Sorry but this red-lipstick girl is far from female climbers like Tamara. Maybe some day she gets there, but why making such a big deal of her activity now? Just because she can handle social media oh-so-well?

+3
Don Paul
Don Paul
8 months ago
Reply to  Tara

Did you say walls? There is the Great Trango, the Nameless Tower, and Shipton Spire right there in the same valley, on the way to Concordia, K2 Base Camp. Look at the descriptions of some of the routes, and compare this with climbing up 60 degree snow on a fixed rope with jumars:
Shipton Spire: http://www.climbandmore.com/climbing,113,0,1,mountains.html
Nameless Tower: http://www.climbandmore.com/climbing,303,0,1,mountains.html
Great Trango Tower: https://www.climbing.com/places/great-trango-tower-the-biggest-big-wall/

+1
Last edited 8 months ago by Don Paul
Climb From Home Mountaineer
Climb From Home Mountaineer
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Actually, neither Tamara nor the “red-lipstick girl” have climbed any big walls. They each have their own persona and are different. If you want inspiring women mountaineers, look up women like (to name a few) Wanda Rutkiewicz, Anna Czerwińska, Lydia Bradey, Pat Deavoll, Sharon Wood, etc. I’m sure the others here can name a lot more women who have pioneered Himalayan climbs and not just those who repeat routes over and over again for social media validation.

+1
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
8 months ago

Allison Hargreaves

+4
Don Paul
Don Paul
8 months ago
Reply to  MuddyBoots

Allison Hargreaves, Emily Harrington, Lynn Hill etc etc. There are tons of badass women rock climbers. They’re not famous for jumaring up fixed ropes.

+1
Tara
Tara
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Sure a different category of climbing (and women has climbed these huge walls, too, e.g. Slovenian Tina diBatista with two other women in an all female team; btw – probably many more people know “the red lipstick climbers” than these remarkable female climbers!) What I meant was mountain walls in Alps or Canada. Real climbers start there (natives from Karakorum and Himalayas are a different story since they have different background) and these climbing experiences are very important for any serious, non-guided climbing in high mountains. Maybe Elisabeth Revol is even better example of such climber (and many other women,… Read more »

Don Paul
Don Paul
8 months ago
Reply to  Tara

The progression, from Aconcagua to Cho Oyu to Broad Peak to Mt Everest, doesn’t count as climbing because jumaring isn’t climbing. And there are very hard routes right there that make K2 look like a walk up. Sure, I could do the hardest aid route on el Cap – by jumar. If I rode along with a group like that (as videographers do), no one would give me credit for climbing it. Here is another one I didn’t mention before because Ron Kauk said it was mostly frozen choss. Uli Biaho. The Italians who put up this new route said… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Don Paul
Don Paul
Don Paul
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Here’s an account of the first line up Uli Biaho. It sounds really scary and probably kept a lot of people from trying. But there will be a lot more of this kind of climbing in the future, if the rock is solid. http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12198040500/The-Obvious-Line-Uli-Biaho

0
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

“What’s it like to have frostbite, John?” Ron asked casually. “This climb means a lot to me, but could I still climb 5.12 without toes?”

I felt frostbite coming on just reading this.

0
Don Paul
Don Paul
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

One other thing I can point out about Shipton Spire, is that the hardest route on it was done by a woman, Steph Davis. She climbs at the same level as the top men climbers, soloing hard routes on the Diamond on Colorado. Two of her husbands died base jumping, and IMO she is well over the edge on the risk spectrum, but gets a lot of respect:
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12199908000/Shipton-Spire-Free-as-Can-Be-in-the-Pakistan-Karakoram

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Tenzin
Tenzin
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

Don, thanks for all these links – fascinating stuff and truly stuff of real Alpinism. I hope to see more of these kinds of ascents in the future and less of jumaring of repeated routes.

+1
Vikram Handa
Vikram Handa
8 months ago
Reply to  Tara

On the contrary she seems fun and ambitious, and overall a better person than a cynical negative person like you.. I wish her all the best..

+9
TMartin
TMartin
8 months ago

Good luck to Trouget, but often success is followed, without intent or desire, by controversy.
The same Mansalu image is also in the following article, but in a completely different context.

https://www.adventure-journal.com/2021/03/many-climbers-claiming-8000-meter-summits-are-wrong/?fbclid=IwAR0mYX28ewUwDvhI0QBlSRSszO3bukSwKG_bMC_gMcfE_sqZmhCHmCjUbUI

+1
David
David
7 months ago
Reply to  TMartin

That is a cornice behind Steffi in the Manaslu photo. I don’t know who appointed this Australian bloke the god of ascent rules, but until he has been up there, maybe he should withhold judgement. Him suggesting that you shouldn’t attempt Manaslu if you aren’t willing to go out on the cornice is patently ridiculous. And also unlikely to persuade anyone. That being said, while I admire Steffi’s attitude and lipstick, jumaring is not climbing. If you aren’t out on the sharp edge, let’s say 30% of the time at least, these aren’t really ascents. They’re follows.

+1
Anna
Anna
8 months ago

To bad you didn’t ask her about Mansalu summit, that probably never happened.

0
Zaff
Zaff
8 months ago

Good luck for K2 this Summer, be safe mountain adventure needs people like Stefi to keep it alive and lively!!

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Benny Smith
Benny Smith
8 months ago

Stop bashing Stefi. Of course she is not a second Alison Hargreaves, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner or anything alike. But did it ever cross your mind, that she is probably aiming at a different moutaineering career? Seems more like she is a very tough female mountaineer and she also likes posting her selfies on social media, so what’s all that fuss about in the end?

+1
Tom Hayes
Tom Hayes
8 months ago

What a great video! It has everything, great videography, and her and NP. Never before saw such scenes of this mountain and I read Hermann Buhls book in the 50s. Thanks for the great effort it took to video the expedition.

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Baig Sadpara
8 months ago

She is a really talented mountaineer. May she be succeeded on her ever expedition. Really good to see her with Ali Sadpara Bhai on some expeditions. Always stay blessed.

0
sad Poetry
8 months ago

Great Content, Just loved the way you presented itÖ Keep up the good work

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Tanzania Expert
2 months ago

Kilimanjaro Trekking is much Physical friendly, not like the rest of Seven summits i can say. I really admire taking adventures in Himalayas.

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