Kristin Harila Smashes World Record, Ascending all the 8,000 Metre Peaks in Record Time

Norwegian Kristin Harila has just finished climbing both Shishapangma and Cho Oyu this spring, having now completed a climb to the true summits of all the 8,000 metre peaks, finishing on 3 May, 2023.

Cho Oyu from Base Camp, Tibet, China. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

She set a new record time of one year, five days, having started with Annapurna last spring and worked her way in record time through the first 12 peaks. Stymied by permits to enter China late last year, the permits were granted this spring by the Chinese for Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, which she ascended in rapid order.

Records on the 8,000 metre peaks have recently fallen from over 7 years, to a claimed 6 months and 6 days by Nims Dai, before it was revealed he needed to return to get to the true summits of Manaslu and Dhaulagiri, both peaks with obscure and in the case of Manaslu, rarely visited summits. Taking the dates from record keeper, Nims climbing time was 2 years, 5 months and 15 days to complete all 14.

As some have argued, reaching the exact tops of the 8,000 metre peaks can be challenging, and in bad weather, with long, corniced ridges, not very safe.

On the summit of Cho Oyu, (at least I think so), with Dawa, Everest on far left horizon. We also walked across to the small mound of prayer flags behind us. Liz Hawley accepted this photo as proof of our summit as “we could see Everest behind us.” Who knows what you do in a whiteout or snowstorm if your GPS tracker batteries fail?

But if those who want to set real records based on the true summit, and in a documented time frame, and be recognized for them, it seems reaching the actual summit, and documenting it, is essential.

There are nothing if not rules to play by, when climbers venture into competing in climbathons.

Kristin also now becomes the second woman to have reached all the 8,000 metre summits, very closely preceded by the Chinese climber Dong Hong-Juan, who started with Everest ten years ago and finished on Shishapangma on 26 April this year.

In the past few years, more than a few have weighed in on what constitutes a summit, and specifically, an 8,000 meter summit, with the Alpinist’s point of view, as well as the ever through Damien Gildea weighing in at the American Alpine Journal. While a recent overview of Kristin’s climbs and her achieving the record can be found in Gripped as well.

No wonder that Kristen has details on her climbs: with dates, times, routes and GPS track logs all documented here so we know exactly where she has been and when.

Manaslu, with it’s “newly discovered” summit, has recently been the most frequently claimed and rarely summited 8,000 metre peak. For years, climbers have been stopping at a point along the ridge that is well below the top, which cuts out either a final precarious ridge climb, or a steep and unstable traverse below the ridge, which traverses across and up to the true summit.

Many climbers have thought they reached the top, (and have the certificate to prove it, not uncommon in Nepal), only to realize later that if you really want to claim the summit, you do have to climb to the absolute tippy-top.

For many, the climb of Manaslu they did sufficed, plus or minus some meters, and is of no personal consequence – as long as they are honest about the height they attained.

Recent photographs and drone footage are shown on Mark Horrell’s site and make it all rather clear where you need to climb to, and show the challenges of these final, prone to avalanche, slopes. It was in this area where so sadly, Hilaree Nelson set off an avalanche and fell to her death.

Just for reference, here’s what the real top of Manaslu looks like.

For those setting records, there is only one summit. Even Nims Dai had to go back after completing the 14 peaks to finish off Manaslu and Dhaulagiri.

The summit slopes from Camp 2 to the summit of Cho Oyu. Photo: Robert Anderson

Kristin had originally hoped to climb Cho Oyu last year from its south side in Nepal, but those routes are considerably more challenging and potentially time consuming than being able to access the peak from within China. This spring the permits for both Shishapangm and Cho Oyu finally came through.

And while a small group of climbers have also completed Shishapangma by sneaking in from Nepal, going up the Langtang valley, over the pass and then ascending the south face, that wasn’t an option for Kristin and her team with their high profile.

shishipangma, neimsdai, robertmadsanderson
Moving from Camp 1 to Camp 2 on the regular route and north side of Shishapangma. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

The north side of Shishipangma has a circuitous route with a multitude of slopes with avalanche potential, and a final long traverse up to the main summit, Shishapangma being yet another peak where many stop short of the final true top.

Making the record books, especially with the inherent challenges and danger of the high peaks, certainly hasn’t gotten much easier – and proving it ever more important.

Shishipangma, Cho Oyu, Everest, Hillary Step
Shishapangma, far left on the horizon, and Cho Oyu, center left, from the base of the Hillary Step, Everest. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson