Solo on Shisha Pangma

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Jean-Christophe Lafaille topped out on Shisha Pangma via the South Face on Dec. 11, a solo ascent without supplementary oxygen that will provide plenty of fodder for debate over the meaning of a “winter ascent.” Shisha Pangma (26,335 feet) is one of seven 8,000-meter peaks that has not seen a calendar-winter ascent. Working alone, Lafaille established camps through the end of November, establishing a major variation to the 1982 British route on the face. On Saturday at around 7 a.m., the Frenchman reached the summit. He then returned to a high camp at around 23,250 feet, spent the night, and descended to the base. Meanwhile, an Italian-Polish expedition is standing by for its attempt on a strict calendar-winter ascent of the Tibetan peak. The team of Simone Moro, Piotr Morawski, Darek Zaluski, Jacek Jawien, and Jan Szulc has arrived in basecamp and is preparing for the climb. Last January, Moro and Morawski made the first winter ascent of the South Face of Shisha Pangma but turned back from the summit rather than bivouac in temperatures below –50 F. The last time an 8,000-meter peak saw its first winter ascent was Lhotse in 1988. All of the previous first winter ascents have been by Polish teams, and all have been within the calendar winter, starting Dec. 21. However, the official winter-permit season in both Nepal and Tibet begins Dec. 1.