Three Women Score Permits to Climb Tibet’s 8,000’ers

Kristin Harila of Norway, Sophie Lavaud of France/Switzerland, and Viridiana Alvarez of Mexico have obtained permits to climb in Tibet. They are already in China. Theirs will be the first foreign expedition on the Tibetan 8,000’ers since 2019.

Harila noted yesterday that she will first head for Shishapangma and then Cho Oyu. These are the only two peaks she has left to complete her 14×8,000’ers speed record that started last year. For 2023, she also announced she would repeat the quest without supplementary O2. This suggests that she may climb the two Tibetan peaks twice, once with bottled oxygen, and once without.

Sophie Lavaud has only Shishapangma and Nanga Parbat to complete her list of all 14. Alvarez is also doing the 8,000’ers. While Everest is her main goal this season, she expects to have time to climb Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, then head to Everest before the monsoon.

The entire sherpa dn clients' team in Tibet, wearing white kata scarves and posing with thier duffel bags. A building in background.

“It’s a women’s team!” Viridiana Alvarez announced. Well, sort of. The climbing team in Tibet yesterday. Photo: Viridiana Alvarez/Facebook


What will it be like?

Nepal’s Climbalaya, led by company director Mingma Sherpa, is outfitting the climbers. Pemba Tenjin Sherpa, Pemba Tenjing Sherpa, Chhiring Wanchu Sherpa, Ngima Rita Sherp, and Tenjen Sherpa will add support. Kumar Rai and Sandip Ale will serve as the Base Camp crew.

Climbalaya’s owners have kept strong contact with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association for years. They say that they are the only agency in Nepal given these special permits to lead an expedition on Tibet’s two 8,000m peaks.

Shishapangma among clouds, rising on the barren lands of the Tibetan plateau.

Shishapangma. Photo: Shutterstock


Both Shishapangma and Cho Oyu are great for light expeditions and smaller teams, thanks to their straightforward normal routes. They generally require no fixed ropes except on a few specific passages.

So far, there is no information on the current state of the mountains or whether Chinese teams are currently climbing there.

Disappointment for others

Other 14×8,000m seekers have come away disappointed. Climbing fans in Japan point to Naoko Watanabe, for whom Shishapangma is the only remaining peak on her list.

She is not the only one who had hoped for a Tibetan permit.

“I am broken-hearted,” wrote Grace Tseng of Taiwan on Instagram. “After all the hard work, using all channels available, I feel so sad and lost.”

Tseng has plans for Everest but hoped she would also be able to climb in Tibet this season. Tseng told ExplorersWeb that she didn’t know why she hadn’t been granted the permit.

Meanwhile, Harila’s sometime partner, Adriana Brownlee, is abandoning her attempt on Manaslu. Her Sherpa support team was only available for the first month of the season. Gelje Sherpa has to guide on Annapurna for Seven Summit Treks. The remaining three Sherpas must head to Everest next week.

Nor is Brownlee joining Harila in Tibet. Instead, Brownlee has announced that she is taking a break from 8,000’ers.

“The culture seems to be changing so much on these mountains, it’s all about the records, the fame, the money,” she wrote.

However, Harila, Gelje, and Brownlee herself were aiming to break speed or age climbing records on the 8,000’ers.

Brownlee's selfi with a backdrop of snowy peaks. She is wearing a red feather jacket and a dark yellow beanie.

Adriana Brownlee with Manaslu in the background. Photo: Instagram

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.