Stitzinger’s Shishapangma account, ski descents

Posted: May 07, 2013 08:52 pm EDT

(By Nick Boudreau) Luis Stitzinger checked into ExplorersWeb today to give his account of the main summit day, April 30, which upwards of 10 climbers reach the top. He, along with Rupert Hauer and Thomas Laemmle, were able to ski down to lower camps from the “ski depot” approximately 50 meters from the main summit.

Here goes Luis' account:

"We started in the early morning of 30.4., about 2.30 a.m., from our advanced C2 (7100 m) just below the ice couloir leading up to the shoulder where C3 (officially 7300 m - in reality 7450 m) is situated. Seven Summits Treks climbers had already set off one hour earlier, at 1.30 a.m. Temperatures were cold but low winds persisted, opposite to the conditions the days before. The couloir was not fixed and we climbed with our ice axes through the darkness in blue ice conditions.

A long traverse leads out of the couloir and to the rock gendarme of C3 where the first dim daylight greeted us from the east. It was wind-still when we cut across the northeastern summit flank towards the east ridge to follow the other climbers on the Inaki Variation towards the main summit.

All Seven Summits Treks expedition members had started to climb the steep couloir at the end of the long traverse underneath the ice cliffs of the headwall. Rupert Hauer had sped up to share making track with their climbing sherpas Dawa (co-owner of Seven Summits Treks), Mingma and Lama Sherpa but encountered some difficulties in the couloir that slowed down the whole queue so we almost caught up to the last climbers.

At the end of the couloir, just before a short traverse to a flat shoulder on the left, we had overtaken Alex Gavan. Moderate, by the wind hard blown slopes led up to a wide saddle on the left of the main summit. When we reached the saddle, we were literally swept off our feet by the violent wind gusts that blew up from the southeast side of the mountain. The weather forecast lay at 30 km/h winds for this day but the gales exceeded 100 km/h at times.

For a long time no one ventured to climb the exceedingly steep and exposed summit ridge to the main summit. After an hour of waiting time the first climbers set off in a break in the wind speeds to cover the remaining distance to the highest point. They (Dawa Sherpa, Santiago Quintero, Mingma Sherpa, Tunc Tunç Findik) reached the summit around 12.30-1.00 p.m. and fixed a long girdle of prayer flags to the pointed snow dome. When they returned we had just started our own attack and met them on the most exposed stretch of the ridge. We congratulated each other for this lucky and unlikely finale - after it had looked like we would have to give up the last meters to the summit with so much wind for such a long time.

The exposed knife edge ridge continued up to a small pointed pre-summit from where another, almost horizontal snow ridge led towards the highest point of the main summit, altogether half an hour of concentrated climbing. We reached the top around 1.30 p.m. in fine weather, with the one or other occasional gale you had to duck from. Around 2.00 p.m., Thomas Laemmle who had followed the rest of the summit aspirants of the day from C2 1-2 hours later, arrived on the summit.

After descending to the saddle (approx. 50 m below the main summit) where the ski depot was situated, Alix continued to descend on foot whereas Thomas and me stepped into our ski bindings to follow the tracks Rupert Hauer had left earlier. The shoulder and steep couloir were windblown and no ideal terrain for a ski descent but we managed to ski down with good progress.

A broken fixing screw left me fiddling around with my ski binding for a while until I could find a provisional solution for it. In the meantime Thomas had descended to C3 to where I followed him in a rush. The couloir below C3 featured wide spread and steep patches of blue ice that had to be avoided with the skis. Again, not ideal skiing terrain that demanded full concentration again before touching the flat glaciated sole of "the corridor".

Around 5 p.m. we all reached our starting point of the day and consoled in the comfort of our camp. The following day we descended to our ski depot at the tongue of the glacier, passing empty camps 2 and 1 on the way down. From there we walked some 2 hours to the safety of BC, a harsh wind blowing around our noses. The weather window had only held up for one single day, merely enough to climb the elusive summit of Mt. Shishapangma.”

Seven Summits Treks Climbers and Rupert Hauer reached the summit around 13.00 Nepal Time, we (Alix von Melle, Luis Stitzinger) 13.30, Thomas Laemmle 14.00. Thomas was the only one who left from C2 (6950 m), all other climbers from Advanced C2 (7100 m). However, he left about 1-2 hrs later than all others and followed in the foot tracks of his predecessors all the way to the summit.

Rupert Hauer provided his own account of their 13 days on the mountain, from their arrival at Advance Base Camp to summit day, on his website here.


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Luis Stitzinger and Alix von Melle

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While not able to ski from the summit, Alix von Melle made the most of it. Seen here skiing below Camp 1.
Image by Luis Stitzinger courtesy Luis Stitzinger, SOURCE
Luis Stitzinger and Alix von Melle standing on the Main Summit of Shishapangma
courtesy Luis Stitzinger and Alix von Melle, SOURCE
Rupert Hauer posing on Shishapangma summit.
courtesy Rupert Hauer, SOURCE