Getting Close on Shishapangma

By Dougald MacDonald ,

After a month of hard work, a Polish-Italian team is well-positioned to make the first winter ascent of 8,027-meter Shishapangma. The small team has fixed ropes most of the way up the 1995 Spanish route on the south face and placed Camp 2 at 7,100 meters. If the current weather forecast holds, climbers Piotr Morawski and Darek Zaluski of Poland and Simone Moro of Italy hope to go for the summit on Saturday. The expedition was nearly knocked out before starting when a virus infected five of the seven team members in early December. Moro returned all the way to Kathmandu from basecamp for treatment and low-altitude recuperation. Healthy again, the team slowly fixed ropes up the steep south face, finding hard, green ice almost the entire way. By the end of last week, they had reached a point less than 300 meters from the top of the face, with 600 meters of much easier ridge climbing above that to the top. They had hoped to go for the summit on January 10, but exhausted themselves hauling ropes and gear to Camp 2 and decided to retreat to basecamp and rest for one last push after forecasted high winds die down. If this expedition succeeds, it will be the eighth 8,000-meter peaks to be climbed in winter. Polish climbers have made six of the seven first winter ascents, the most recent in 1988. Earlier this winter, Britons Andy Parkin and Victor Saunders attempted Shishapangma but were driven back by high winds.

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