Kristin Harila Summits Annapurna. Eight of the 8,000 Metre Peaks Down, Just Six to Go.

Having started her 8,000 metre quest just 1 month and 9 days ago, Kristin now has completed 8 of the 14, 8,000 metre peaks.

Her latest, Annapurna, was summited at around 6 a.m. the morning of 5 June, 73 years and 2 days after its first ascent by the French team of Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal.

Sunset over the Annapurna range, with Dhaulagiri right. From Himlung Himal at 6,300 metres. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

Her Annapurna ascent was completed in a style that has now become commonplace for her – a helicopter flight into Base Camp, climbing immediately, going as high as possible, a quick camp, another day or two of climbing, then an overnight to the summit, then what seems to be, virtually a run back to Base Camp and a flight out.

On all her climbs to date she has been accompanied by Lama Sherpa, with other Sherpas in support on the various peaks. On Annapurna this included an additional 6 highly talented climbers and very fast Sherpa; including Tenjing Sherpa, Pasang Nurbu Sherpa, Lakpa Temba Sherpa, Mingma Tenjing Sherpa, Pasang Sherpa and Lakpa Gyaljen Sherpa.

From her starting date in April, until today, an incredible 8 peaks in 40 days.

Annapurna is well known for being one of the most dangerous of the 8,000 metre peaks, with frequent avalanches, deep snow and treacherous slopes giving it a summit to death ratio that has kept it off many Himalayan climbers lists. There is something to be said for doing it as quickly as possible.

While Kirstin would of been able to take advantage of fixed ropes and a trail on some of her earlier climbs this season, climbing now with the monsoon just around the corner, the peaks will be empty, the ropes most probably buried, and no other climbers around.

While some may find her support team rather large, the actual climbing experience, with a single team on a very large mountain, climbing quickly up the mountain, would most likely be a great experience.

With the competitions around the new wave of climbathons popularized by Nims, Kristin has used as a place to document exact times, tracks and details of each of her ascents.

Kristin attempted to start her season early on Manaslu, but deep snow, avalanches and stormy weather forced her to abandon that and head for Tibet, where she completed Shishapangma, a beautiful peak and the only one located completely within Tibet. She followed that up with a climb of Cho Oyu from the Western side on the normal route, before heading back for Nepal to climb Makalu, Kanchenjunga, Everest – and a mere 8 hours later, Lhotse.

The approach to the climbs, while attempting to do them all quickly, has also allowed for a climbing approach that is very flexible. When climbing the 8,000 metre peaks, climbers have traditionally gone from Camp to Camp, dictated as much by terrain and altitude, as the carrying capacities of their Sherpa.

With a small, super fit, and most importantly, superbly acclimatized team, you can simply climb depending on conditions. You don’t need to hold to a camp to camp time table. You just climb as fast as you can, rest when needed, and carry everything with you until you set off for the summit. No dome tent in Base Camp, no masseuse, and certainly none of those wasteful rest days.

Dhaulagiri, the route ascends the prominent snowy buttress at centre. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

Dhaulagiri was the epitomie of this style: described as:

“The condition from BC was not so good, there was a lot of snow and we had to break trails to go up the mountain. We woke up early the next day and at 7am we started from C1 to go up to what I thought was just going to be C2. But after 6 hours to C2 we decided to continue up to C3. It took us 11-12 hours to reach C3.

There, we had some tea and food and after that, continued the climb to the summit. After C2, the condition of the climb was much better. Me, Lama, Lakpa and Nima started out around 10:30 and after 23 hours total from C1, we reached the summit!

It was a very nice climb, and a lot faster than what I did last year between C3 and the summit, the condition was a lot better. Although there was some wind on the summit, it was good before reaching the summit. It was a super nice and amazing morning view with Annapurna behind us.

We then climbed down from the summit, all the way to BC after 34h. It was my longest summit push EVER 😅” KristinHarila-Insta.

With this new approach to the big peaks, it is also the chance to look at the way they are climbed, the support that is needed, and ultimately, the time it takes to accomplish a summit. And with Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, she has climbed them at the very tail end of the spring season, whereas most ascents have been attempted far earlier.

Some of the traditional timing is due to scheduling, staffing and commercial operators, but these recent ascents now have proved that in some instances, a closer look at how to fit them best into the season is worth thinking about.

Kirstin now has just Manaslu left in Nepal to climb and with a monsoon still holding off, perhaps a quick stop there will be next?

It will, like her last few climbs, be lonely, without fixed ropes or anything approaching a trail, but not dissimilar to what she has just done. Today’s weather report looks like it just might be possible, and with no idea what the fall season will hold, certainly doing it now might well be preferable.

Climbers have been going to Manaslu earlier and earlier in the fall season, facing deep snow and avalanches at the tail end of the monsoon, but this has also proved very dangerous, with a number of deaths last season, include Hilaree Nelson’s, and eventually the retreat of most of the teams. Kristin summited early that season, but in conditions that were certainly far from ideal.

K2, from Concordia. Photo: Robert Mads Anderson

Then she will be off to Pakistan and the Karakoram giants of Nanga Parbat, K2, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum 1 and 2. Last year she did them in this order and time frame:

Nanga Parbat – 1 July, 2022

K2 – 22 July, 2022

Broad Peak – 28 July, 2022

Gasherbrum II- 8 August, 2022

Gasherbrum I – 11 August, 2022

Hopefully conditions will prove good, the slopes and rocks will behave themselves and the weather will shine on them.

(As I wrote this, I find that over the last 4 hours, Kirstin and her team have now descended 1,600 metres down from the summit of Annapurna and are over half-way back to Base Camp.)