(By Markian Hawryluk) Skyskier Luis Stitzinger and his wife, Alix von Melle, are moving into position for the season's first summits of Shishapangma, with plans for a complete ski descent of the 8,027-meter peak if conditions allow.
Climbing along with Austria's, Rupert Hauer, the German climbing couple have skied much of the lower reaches in establishing Camps 1 and 2. They retreated to Advanced Base Camp last week to wait out a favorable weather window.
“The 30th of April and the 1st of May are definitely peak days, then the jet streams drops down and provides a week of strong winds.” the climbers posted on their website on Saturday, April 27. “We, Alix, Rupert and Luis, have decided to take this early opportunity.”
The climbers left for Camp 1 on Sunday, with the goal of moving Camp 2 from 6,850 meters to 7,100 meters on Monday, shortening their summit day. The Germans are attempting to summit via the classic first ascent route, up the Northwest Ridge to the Inaki route without oxygen or porters.
Shishapangma would be the sixth 8000m peak for the pair. They came close to another last year, turning around 200 meters short of Manaslu's summit when the weather turned on them.
Currently, Von Melle has more 8,000m summits than any other German female. But Stitzinger says she is not as interested in skiing the peaks. He has skied at least a portion of Gasherbrum II, Nanga Parbat, K2, and Broad Peak.
While ski descents require more athleticism and focus than traditional downclimbs, they also pose challenges on the ascent.
“Your feet are really the most critical part as the insulation of ski boots never comes close to the one of expedition boots,” Stitzinger told ExplorersWeb last year. He relies on a warmer inner boot and well as neoprene overboots with a battery-powered heated sole to keep his feet warm.
While the descent is faster, it is no less taxing on the climber. “Skiing at 8,000 or 7,000 meters is still murderously exhausting,” he said.
Members of Seven Summits Treks are also planning a summit bid for April 30, reported the Stitzinger team. This peak will be the last of the 14x8000m peaks for their leader, Chang Dawa Sherpa.
Luis Stitzinger and Alix von Melle's website
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