Lafaille Missing on Makalu


Jean-Christophe Lafaille, attempting to solo Makalu in winter, has not been heard from since Thursday. The 39-year-old Frenchman reached a high camp at 7,600 meters on that day; he planned to start for the summit on Thursday night and top out on Friday. Since his last satellite call on Thursday, no communication has been received, and it is not known if he reached the summit of the 8,481-meter peak. Lafaille’s only companions on the mountain are a cook and a few helpers at basecamp. 

The weather was good on the mountain today, and a plane was expected to fly over and try to spot Lafaille’s tent at 7,600 meters. If the tent is seen, it is likely he disappeared between high camp and the summit. If the tent is gone, he may be lower on the mountain. The chief fear is that Lafaille may have fallen into a crevasse. After many weeks of preparation and waiting out high winds, Lafaille left Makalu basecamp at 5,300 meters on Tuesday, January 24, and spent nights at 6,000 meters and 6,900 meters before reaching his high bivouac on January 26. 

One of France’s great modern climbers, Lafaille has climbed 11 of the 14 8,000-meter peaks, including a solo ascent of Shishapangma in mid-December of 2004. In 1992, he descended the South Face of Annapurna alone, injured and with minimal gear, after his partner, Pierre Beghin, fell to his death.
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