Lafaille Believed Dead on Makalu

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Jean-Christophe Lafaille at the Ouray Ice Festival.Photo by Zach Reynolds

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Jean-Christophe Lafaille, one of France’s greatest modern climbers, is now believed dead high on the slopes of Makalu, where he was attempting the peak’s first winter ascent completely solo. Lafaille last communicated with his wife, Katia, via satellite phone on Thursday, January 26, from a camp at around 7,600 meters on the 8,481-meter peak. He said that he planned to head for the summit on Friday morning. With no word from her husband over the weekend, Katia Lafaille requested an aerial survey of the peak, and French media are reporting today that a helicopter flew to basecamp, where Lafaille’s three Nepalese helpers said they had heard nothing from the climber. The helicopter crew was able to view Lafaille’s route to around 7,400 meters and spotted his tent but saw no sign of life. It is now believed Lafaille perished somewhere between this camp and the summit, likely in a crevasse fall; it’s impossible to say if he reached the top first.

Lafaille has been making headlines in French climbing since the 1980s. In 1989, he free soloed Privilége du Serpent (5.13a) at Ceüse, France. He also soloed numerous hard routes in the Alps and made some extraordinary link-ups of Alpine north faces. Lafaille had climbed 11 of the 14 8,000-meter peaks, including a solo ascent of Shishapangma in mid-December of 2004.Comment on this story