shishipangma, neimsdai, robertmadsanderson

Nims Purja finishes off Manaslu – and heads for Shishipangma?

With Nims summiting Manaslu, as ever in remarkably fast time, only Shishipangma, the last and lowest of the 14 – 8,000 meter peaks, is left to do.

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Heading up from Camp 1 to Camp 2 on Shishipangma’s normal route. The climb finishes on the spectacular ridge on the left, undoubtably the best part of the climb. The true summit is across an often dangerous snow ridge behind the top seen here. 

The challenge on Shishipangma is less the mountain than just getting permission to climb the mountain – as it is the only 8,000 meter peak that lies wholly in China. Nims will need special permission, as right now the season is closed. Lets hope someone at the Chinese Mountaineering Association smiles upon his request and allows him to accomplish what few even believed possible as he started the year.

The challenge of the mountains, the weather and the logistics, not to mention the budget of this endeavor is truly incredible. Previously, climbers have devoted much of their climbing career to getting up the peaks, with Messner who was first to complete them all starting in 1970 with Nanga Parbat and finishing on Lhotse 16 years later.

K2, left in background and morning sun, and Broad Peak, right, seen from the Gondogoro La, Pakistan. Jo Clark leading her team across the heights last year. 

Ed Viesturs, the first American to climb all the 8,000rs, started in 1989 and finished with Annapurna in 2005 – like Messner also completing them without oxygen.

Nims is using oxygen, but at the rate he is going and the additional time challenges he is facing – and often the way many of the peaks are ascended these days, it seems a very small consolation to the overall challenge.

Here is the list of Nims climbs, from most recent, right back to the start of the year on Annapurna on 23 April, 2019:

Manaslu – September 27
Cho Oyu – September 23
Broad Peak – July 26
K2 – July 24
Gasherbrum II – July 18
Gasherbrum I – July 15
Nanga Parbat – July 03
Makalu – May 24
Everest – May 22
Lhotse – May 22
Kanchenjunga – May 15
Dhaulagiri – May 12
Annapurna – April 23.

On some peak combinations you can see a progress that really displays the speed and high altitude stamina – doing Everest, Lhotse and Makalu over just a couple days. And then he followed up K2 in a decidedly dicey season, where many teams were headed home, with Broad Peak just a few days later as well.

Shishipangma from the Tibetan plateau.

While the climbing is certainly commendable, the travel, logistics and funding are another hurdle all-together. For anyone who has been to even a single 8,000 meter peak, or waded their way through a book about an expedition account of a climb, the planning and preparation can take a year or more, and then take up a chapter or three of most books just to get through.

Helicopters have obviously played a big role, but in some areas, these are limited and the approaches and distance between peaks has just had to be covered on foot. All-be-it, at a bit of a gallop.

We await the update on Shishipangma.