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Gerlinde not only finished the 14, 8000ers in style, she further established herself as the world's foremost female high altitude climber.
There was never any doubt with Edurne. She wanted them all and she wanted them first.
Miss Oh shot up with the speed and shock of an unexpected high altitude jet storm.
Miss Go, the little sister with a big dream, sadly lost her life in the quest.
Nives and Romano celebrating their 15th 8000er summit.
Image by Laila Meroi courtesy Nives Meroi/Romano Benet, SOURCE
Their quests carved forever into the Himalayan slopes the many faces of mountaineering. Edurne Pasaban (left) Nives Meroi (top right) and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner (bottom right).

K2 editorial: end of an era in womens' Himalaya

Posted: Aug 26, 2011 05:33 am EDT
(By Tina Sjogren) Almost ten years ago we set up ExplorersWeb with purpose to shine a light on people usually overlooked by the adventure mags and golden axes.

Soon we began to cover women in mountaineering. Revisiting Wanda, Chantal and Alison; we went on to the new generation just as the first female all-fourteen 8000ers quest was taking shape.

The new women were all strong, brave and dynamic but their differences would carve forever into the Himalayan slopes the many faces of mountaineering.

The styles

Through especially the later part of my life I have learned that victory is not about justice. Victory is about will, and it will go to who wants it more.

There was never any doubt about Spanish Edurne Pasaban. Frank, fiery and driven; she wanted them all and she wanted them first.

Then there was Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. Alpine like the edelweiss she sought the beautiful mountains, the less climbed paths and while she too wanted success it would not be with the aid of artificial oxygen.

Strong, resilient and also without supplementary oxygen: Italian Nives Meroi would always climb side by side with her husband Romano. Their lonely march to the summit of K2 tied only to each other remained in my mind a manifesto to the power of love.

Storm from the East

The three European women took turns in leading the game until somewhere around 11 summits two dark horses from Korea sprung up with the speed and shock of an unexpected high altitude jet storm.

Miss Go, the little sister with a big dream shielded by a big family and a big team sadly lost her life in the quest. Miss Oh ran a noodle shop to pay for her climbs and led all her expeditions mostly with the final aid of only a couple of faithful Sherpas.

Using supplementary oxygen on K2 and Everest alone, Miss Oh bagged the 8000ers in unprecedented speed, needing only a few years to accomplish what had taken others - including men - decades.

The victory

The women, climbing side by side at times, were gracious to each other but the plot thickened at the end with a controversy that changed the outcome.

Over two decades of climbing, last year it looked that Edurne had lost her quest to Miss Oh with only a few weeks to spare. But the Basque woman would not give up just yet. Miss Oh had not been to the true summit at least once, her Sherpa told Edurne, who cried foul.

Confusion reigned and people took sides until a statement by Miss Oh herself to a magazine delivered the deciding blow: she had in fact stopped below the real summit at one point.

Edurne's victory was a fact, and a tribute to the will that never gives up.

Gerlinde's turn

Only one year later Gerlinde has got her wish fullfilled. A beautiful run closed in a beautiful climb on the mountaineers' mountain.

On Everest you become a climber to the world. On K2, you become a climber to climbers and Gerlinde had showed her true colors on the peak more than once. Last year she was steps behind in the Bottleneck when Fredrik fell to his death. They were the only ones trying; much like Maxut, Vasso, Darek and she were finally this year.

Summiting K2 with a small group of friends, through the peak's wild side, and without supplementary oxygen is almost as beautiful as it gets. Gerlinde not only finished the 14, 8000ers quest in style, she further established herself as the world's foremost female high altitude climber today.

The new generation

Already a new generation of climbers, also female, are showing up on the golden summit crests. Some not even born when Messner first bagged the 14, 8000ers: the teams are smaller, the winter climbs more frequent.

There will be new plots, new drama, and new challenges showing the human nature exactly as it is.

For a couple there will be a new beginning. Such as Nives Meroi who dropped out of the quest when her husband fell ill. Romano recovering at last from a serious spine disease the two are returning to Nepal this fall to climb Mera Peak.

Nives calls the long fight for his comeback to life their, "15th 8000er summit."






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