No Go on Shishapangma

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Deep cold and an unexpected serac barrier halted a winter attempt on 8,027-meter Shishapangma last weekend with only easy ground leading to the summit. Simone Moro of Italy and Piotr Morawski of Poland left Camp 2 at 7,100 meters at midnight on January 17 but were soon forced to return to the tent to warm their feet. A few hours later, in temperatures estimated at –40F to –49F, they climbed the last few hundred meters of the south face, completing the first winter ascent of this wall, but then were brought up short by a 100-meter ice cliff on the ridge. The Spanish team that first climbed this route in 1995 had told Moro he would have to rappel a 50-meter cliff to reach the final ridge traverse. But Moro and Morawski did not have enough rope for the bigger ice band they found. Instead, they made a dangerous and time-consuming traverse around the barrier on blue ice and wind slab. Continuing up the easy ridge, they reached 7,700 meters by mid-afternoon. Now they were in shade, and they faced an almost certain and potentially deadly bivouac during the descent if they continued to the top. Instead, they retreated to Camp 2. Exhausted and worried about frostbite, Morawski continued down fixed ropes to Camp 1 at the base of the face, while Moro was joined at Camp 2 by the Polish climber and photographer Darek Zaluski. Moro was keen for another attempt, but that night the temperature plummeted even farther, reaching –62F. That was the last straw, and the Italian finally called it quits.

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