Best of ExplorersWeb 2010 Award Winner: Edurne Pasaban, 14x8000ers

Posted: Dec 31, 2010 10:40 pm EST

Born in Tolosa in 1973, "I was extremely shy and quiet," Edurne told ExplorersWeb. At age 14 nevertheless, she signed up for a rock climbing course hoping to find, "a super-sexy climbing teacher," she said.

Somehow, choices like that would skid her straight off the well-mapped highway to social status onto a rocky path snaking over the world's tallest mountains -- and carve her name in Himalayan history.

Skipping up the hills west of the Pyrenees, Basque child Edurne Pasaban knew little of the great adventure that lay ahead. Although her teacher turned out merely her second cousin Asier Izaguirre; climbing changed everything for Edurne. Months later, she would sharpen her picks and crampons on Europe's highest peaks. She summited Mont Blanc at 16, and cemented her unusual high-altitude stamina in the Peruvian Andes before turning 20.

The Italian

In her mid-twenties, with a rookie team of fellow climbers from Tolosa, Edurne entered the Himalayan scene. She failed her first 8000er attempt on Dhaulagiri, but instead met Silvio Mondinelli, her first Himalayan climbing partner.

The Italian took her to Everest. Where many high-altitude climbers regard the peak as their end destination, for Edurne it was the beginning. Along with her first frostbites she also got a first taste of an 8000er success. Following her Everest summit in 2001, five more giants were added in only two years: Makalu, Cho Oyu, Lhotse and the Gasherbrums.

Her rocketing career caught the attention of the Al Filo de lo Imposible documentary film team and its climbing star, Juanito Oiarzabal. Preparing a climb on the peak's 50th anniversary, Al Filo invited Edurne to join their super-team on K2.

K2 and Shisha turning points

The Mountaineers' Mountain granted another victory but also a warning: Summiting on a cold day ahead of all the other expeditions - an exhausted and severely frostbitten Edurne was helped down on the verge of collapse. She lost two toes along with her motivation to climb.

Joining Al Filo again for Nanga Parbat in spring 2005, the summit offered little comfort. Unable to find a reason to climb, and tired of having no say in the big team, she fell into depression and quit climbing for over a year.

With no press and just a small team of friends, in a complete turnaround Edurne showed up in Himalaya by fall 2006. "I'M BACK!" she hollered from Shisha south face. She didn't summit, but found climbing joy again.

The target is set

She returned to Al Filo but now as the expedition leader: negotiating terms, targets and team members. A Broad Peak ascent in 2007 became the deciding factor and Edurne made it publicly clear: she was going for the 14x8000ers.

In short order, Manaslu and Dhaulagiri were added in 2008. In spring 2009 on Kangchenjunga, Edurne had the goal, the will, the budget and the perfect team: Asier Izaguirre, Ferran Latorre, Alex Txicon and, later, Nacho Orviz. The time had come for the crucial, last stage.

The final victory would prove anything but easy. Each for their own different reasons, Edurne's two closest competitors for the first female 14, 8000ers summiteer had left the stage wide open -- but now instead two dark horses from the east had emerged: South Korean female climbers Miss Go and Miss Oh.

A deadly fighters' race

A lightning fast run across the Himalayas ensued. Kicked off by Messner and Kukuczka, the dangerous race was infamous for its victims. The female version turned out no different when Miss Go was lost.

But there was no turning back for Edurne Pasaban. In January 2010 she prepared for a risky double bet on the two 8000+ meters left: the highly dangerous Annapurna, and Shisha Pangma which had already rejected her four times.

Only by summiting both peaks in record speed would she have a chance to beat Oh Eun-Sun who had only Anna left after chain-climbing a record number of summits in two years.

The plan was to bag Shisha Pangma during late winter and then -- fully acclimatized -- rush straight to Annapurna, hopefully before Miss Oh even got there.

But when China suddenly closed the Nepal-Tibet border, Edurne and Al Filo de lo Imposible had to reroute. Pasaban reorganized the logistics in 48 hours, ready to deal with the fatal Anna in winter conditions, little acclimatization, and no expeditions around to share work on the route.

Heavy boots kicking snow of failure

The mountain rewarded the Spanish team's guts. They only needed one summit push - in remarkably good conditions - to bag Anna's summit, on April 17. The team returned to Shisha Pangma, with Edurne taking care of certain business along the way. Already prior to the last climbs, she knew that at least one of Miss Oh's climbs had been disputed.

Unwilling at first to lead the battle against her competitor, now the answer seemed inevitable. If Miss Oh had cheated, and the victory rightfully belonged to Edurne, she'd have to fight for it -- to the ugly end.

And that she did: rousing media, complaining to Miss Hawley in Kathmandu, and ExplorersWeb. The problem though that her cry took place just as Miss Oh risked her life and was unable to defend herself. Bad sport, people reckoned, and let Edurne know in blogs while she could nothing but watch the relentless wind on Shisha Pangma. Meanwhile, during a dramatic turn of events, Miss Oh bagged her 14th 8000er summit on Annapurna.

Her heart as heavy as her boots kicking deep in the snow, in her fifth attempt on the mountain and to the day one month after summiting Annapurna: On May 17 Spanish Edurne Pasaban completed her 14x8000er quest on Shisha Pangma.

The funny thing called triumph

She was 37 years old: 23 years had passed since her innocent search for a cute climbing guide. Now what?

Triumph is a funny thing. It likes to arrive unexpectedly, and preferably one step beyond what seemed a definite failure.

Edurne would win the race, handed to her by no other than Miss Oh herself. In an interview with a German news source, Oh-Eun Sun confessed: she had not climbed to the very summit of Kanchenjunga.

It was over at last for Edurne Pasaban. Finally crowned as the first woman to summit all 14 8000ers; her spirit of adventure repeated perhaps the most important message to the rest of the world:

To never, ever, but truly never -- give up.

For this the 2010 Best of ExplorersWeb awards goes to Edurne Pasaban.

Zorionak, champ!

Previous Awards in 2010

2. Antarctica crossing, Cecilie Skog and Ryan Waters
3. Himalaya helicopter rescues, Sabin Basnyat, Fishtail Air and Air Zermatt.
4. Mars Ocean Odyssey, Reid Stowe
5. Teen solo world circumnavigation, Jessica Watson
6. Indian Ocean row, Erden Eruc
7. Himalayan Knights, Joao GarcĂ­a and Piotr Pustelnik
8. North Pole circumnavigation, Peter 1st and Northern Passage

Special mentions:
Dan Darley and Amelia Russell; North Pole unsupported
Ed Stafford (and Cho); Amazon from source to sea
Valery Rozov; Antarctica BASE jump
Jean-Louis Etienne; North Pole crossing in a rozière balloon.
Special climbs: Denis Urubko's Lhotse, Basque traverse on Broad Peak, Ukraine nMakalu, Ralf and Gerlinde's Everest, Eric Larsen's Everest, Chad Kellogg on Aconcagua.

We have covered hundreds of expeditions in 2010. It's difficult to choose the best, as they all contributed in their own way, sharing their story - their very soul in fact - with us and the world.

And yet, there are those who continue to linger in our minds long after their final debrief. We have chosen 8 expeditions who have contributed in an extraordinary way to the Spirit of Adventure in 2010.

By their performance, these expeditions have proved themselves outstanding in all or most of the following:

- Courage
- Determination
- Persistence
- Self reliance
- Ingenuity
- Pioneering
- Idealism
- Comradeship
- Compassion
- Respect towards competition
- Honesty

#Mountaineering #topstory #choice

Edurne Pasaban walking the last steps before Annapurna summit
Image by Nacho Orviz courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Al Filo de lo Imposible / TVE, SOURCE
Edurne during a press conference before Kangchenjunga in March, 2009.
Image by Nacho Delgado courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Nacho Delgado, SOURCE
Al Filo team checking blogs in Shisha Pangma BC, spring 2010. L/R: Nacho Orviz, Edurne Pasaban, Alex Txikon and Asier Izaguirre.
courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Al Filo de lo Imposible / TVE, SOURCE
Edurne Pasaban on Manaslu, fall 2008.
courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Al Filo de lo Imposible / TVE, SOURCE
Edurne, with lips scarred from Kangchenjunga, at home with her nephew and mother.
courtesy Edurne Pasaban, SOURCE
Oh Eun-Sun and Edurne Pasaban checking the ascent route in Annapurna BC.
Image by Ferran Latorre courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Al Filo de lo Imposible / TVE, SOURCE
Edurne Pasaban and Elizabeth Hawley in Kathmandu, spring 2010.
Image by Ferran Latorre courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Al Filo de lo Imposible / TVE, SOURCE
Edurne on her ultimate 8000m+ summit: Shisha Pangma Main.
Image by Nacho Orviz courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Al Filo de lo Imposible / TVE, SOURCE
14x8000er summiteer at only 37, Edurne Pasaban plans to climb Everest without O2 next year.
Image by Ferran Latorre courtesy Edurne Pasaban / Al Filo de lo Imposible / TVE, SOURCE
Edurne Pasaban team in the climber's countryside hotel "Abeletxe". L/R: Nacho Delgado (manager), Pablo (expedition Doc), Idoia (assistant), Edurne, Ferran, Nacho Orviz and Asier - Alex is shooting the pic.
Image by Alex Txikon courtesy Edurne Pasaban, SOURCE

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