VIDEO: Documenting Dhaulagiri’s Disastrous 2021 Fall Season

The autumn of 2021 was an unforgettable season on Dhaulagiri. COVID swept through Base Camp. A rather tense atmosphere existed among climbers. Some kilometres down the glacier, at a separate base camp, two teams prepared to climb the Northwest Ridge. But unexpected drama awaited them too.

Horia Colibasanu, Peter Hamor, and Marius Gane were making their second attempt on this formidable ridge. Topo Mena and Cory Richards had chosen the same objective after their primary goal — the north side of Everest — fell through because of COVID and China’s border closure. Dhaulagiri was their Plan B. Carla Perez, Mena’s partner in life and climbing, joined them.

“Three is safer than two,” they thought. And then Cory Richards unexpectedly bailed. He was not mentally prepared, he averred. He just wanted to go home. And so he did.

a tiny climber on a steep, white snow ramp on a huge mountain.

A drone captures a climber on a steep hillside, in a frame from the documentary.


Mental health issues can be a bigger foe than avalanches and crevasses, and their grip is more common among climbers than many admit. The camera’s unrelenting eye throughout it all can’t help.

Scrambling for alternatives

“Dhaulagiri” is the chronicle of Topo Mena and Carla Perez‘s expedition. Director Tommy Joyce presents amazing footage, but there is much more. The film documents the disappointment when the three-person team falls apart. Their goal on Dhaulagiri no longer possible, we watch them scramble for alternatives, teaming up with new friends Stefi Troguet and Jonatan Garcia. It is a great chance to get to know a little more about the climbers ExplorersWeb has often followed in news stories.


There is a little of everything except a summit. No one reached the top that turbulent season. Everything that could go wrong, did. Topo and Carla launched a bold summit attempt but eventually had to retreat in dangerous conditions. Meanwhile, Colisasanu and his partners were caught in an avalanche on the Northwest Ridge and escaped by a miracle.

Troguet caught COVID in Base Camp, leaving Garcia on his own. Then Garcia’s outfitter called the entire expedition off and evacuated Base Camp. Nothing to do but follow. Yet as Topo and Perez said, it was “Total adventure. Full adventure.”

Topo and Carla embrace, the mountain at sunset in background.

Topo Mena and Carla Perez.

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.