Only the “Easy” 8,000 Metre Peaks to Go. Kristin Harila Tackles Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Shishipangma

Having roared up the first 11 of the worlds’ 14, 8,000 metre peaks in record time, Norwegian Kristin Harila with her Sherpa team of Pasdawa and Dawa Ongju are now in Nepal set to tackle the final 3 peaks.

While the biggest mountain challenge may be the deep snow and avalanches common post monsoon, the final hurdle could well be getting into China to tackle Shishipangma.

First up however is Manaslu, with it’s “newly discovered” summit. 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, only to realize later that if you really want to claim the summit, you do have to climb to the top. For many, the climb they did sufficed, plus or minus some meters was of no personal consequence – as long as they are honest about the height they attained. Recent photographs and drone footage is shown on Mark Horrell’s site and make it all rather clear where you need to climb too, and show the fun that can be had on those final slopes?

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

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

Starting with Manaslu, Kristin will want to summit quickly and thus could well be breaking trail to the top, though with the ropes already set on the lower mountain, hopefully that will speed progress.

All of these last three peaks have very high avalanche danger, particularly post monsoon, where the shallow slopes along with the mix of concave and convex angles, all contribute to an inherent instability. Each of these peaks have had seasons where climbers have been caught out, buried or simply tumbled back down the mountain in a mix of snow and ice.

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

Cho Oyu has some routes on its south side in Nepal, but all of these are considerably more challenging and potentially time consuming than being able to access the peak from within China, from where most ascents originate. So while it would be possible, certainly getting into China to do Shishipangma, may well make gaining access to Cho Oyu via Tibet more likely. Then it is only a days drive from one Base Camp to the other.

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

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Moving from Camp 1 to Camp 2 on the regular route and north side of Shishipangma. Photo: Robert Anderson

Entering via Tibet, they can choose either the North or South side of Shishipangma. The latter, while steeper, is shorter and takes you more directly to the true summit, another peak like Manaslu, that is often claimed but rarely climbed to its highest point.

The north side of Shishipangma is a circuitous route with a multitude of slopes with avalanche potential, and a final traverse along a knife edge ridge that particularly post monsoon, is likely to slide.

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Shishipangma from Tibet. The northern route goes up the sunlit snowy ridge just right of centre. Then a long traverse leads from the rounded summit over to the true summit, on the left at top. Photo: Robert Anderson

As much as only the “easy” 8,000r’s are left, as many have said, the word easy and 8,000 metres don’t fill well together. If anything, the post monsoon in the Himalayas, while seemingly more benign, with soft snow and often weeks of stable weather, hold a host of hidden dangers, particularly for a fast moving team with limited time to make their mark on history.

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Shishipangma, far left, Cho Oyu, center left, from the base of the Hillary Step, Everest. Photo: Robert Anderson