Most of the best female altitude climbers today can be found in the Pakistan mountains at this moment. All have taken advantage of the current weather window and went up for the summit.
Two of them, Edurne Pasabán and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner may - for the first time - equal the score set by Polish legend Wanda Rutkiewicz a long time ago: 8, 8000ers summited. Anna Czerwinska, is going for her 6th. The ladies are positioned high up on Nanga Parbat (Edurne) Gasherbrum 2 (Gerlinde) and K2 (Anna), all hoping for the summit between today and tomorrow. Moreover, the women are the ones motivating their teams and leading the way up the mountain.
Anna Czerwinska: The veteran
Its now or never, stated Polish Anna Czerwinska on K2: "This is the only weather window we may have this month, we simply need to grab the chance."
K2 teams are concerned about the snow conditions - an avalanche swept C1 last week, another went down the close by Broad Peak just yesterday. Some climbers have quit already. But not Anna. "It is the fourth time I attempt this mountain; I'm going up. And that she did, yesterday, with her two Polish mates Leszek Cichy and Dariusz Zaluski, and the three Bulgarian climbers who also joined the team.
Anna Czerwinska is the least known of the high altitude leading female climbers. She has summited five 8000ers, and pioneered amazing routes. She was the third female to summit Nanga Parbat, precisely the peak currently attempted by Edurne Pasaban. The fact is that Anna summited Nanga exactly 20 years ago - when Edurne was only ten years old.
Edurne: The shooting star
Meanwhile, on the slopes of Nanga Parbat, Basque Edurne Pasaban is qetting closer to the summit of her 8th, 8000er. They say next week we may have the only weather window foreseeable this month," wrote Edurne before departure.
I dont know what to believe anymore, but I dont care either. We are leaving tonight. If the plan works, we could summit on Wednesday. We are acclimatized and, although nervous, I want to enjoy the climb. Thats what I came for.
The 31 year old girl from Tolosa still seems surprised at the speed her climbing career is going. In barely five years, she has summited seven 8000ers (including Everest and K2), and also gone through some tough experiences, such as having two toes amputated last year. Edurne is well supported by a strong team (Ivan Vallejo and Silvio Mondinelli among others), but she is also the team leader, making decisions, coordinating the team and taking care of logistics.
Gerlinde: The tough climber
Currently on GII, Gerlindes motto seems to be If you want something well done, better do it yourself. While many big teams on the mountain are waiting for the snow to settle (and perhaps someone to make a trail), Gerlinde set off from C1 Monday. Only an Italian couple (Cristina and Claudio) and two guides from the Amical team followed her and broke trail to C2 in deep snow.
G2 is the Austrian ace climber's 8th 8000er. An avalanche forced her to retreat and remain in C2 - she'll try again for C3 today, to reach the summit on Thursday.
Gerlindes latest climb (the Shisha Pangma traverse in Alpine style with partner Ralf Dujmovits and Japanese Hirotaka), plus a bold attempt on Everests Supercouloir, are among the feats that have brought her unanimous respect in the climbing community.
More ladies for the top
Mexican Badia Bonilla is attempting G2. Afterwards she may give G1 (Hidden Peak) a try, although there were some issues with the climbing permit by the time she departed Mexico. Badia is the Latin American lady climber with most 8000ers summited: Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu, plus Shisha Pangmas central summit.
Edurnes team includes two other lady climbers: Marianne Chapuisat, 36, from Vevey (Switzerland) is a quiet and humble lady who has accomplished the only female winter summit of an 8000er: Cho Oyu in winter 1993. She has also summited both Gasherbrums and attempted Everest.
The young Spaniard Esther Sabadell (29) is also in the team. Esther has previously attempted G1 and Manaslu, but Nanga Parbat is not just another mountain: The current expedition is her comeback to the mountains after a terrible accident while canyoning in the Caribbean islands, which kept her in hospital for months.
Finally, Norwegian Everest summiteer Cecilie Skog is currently on K2, climbing on the Abruzzi Spur.
Polish Anna Czerwinska was the first woman to summit the difficult Rakaposhi (7788 m) through a new route, back in 1979. She also achieved the third female summit of Nanga Parbat (1985). She has summited Mount Everest (2000), Lhotse (2001), Cho-Oyu (2001), Ama Dablam (2002), and Gasherbrum II (2003), plus Broad Peak's foresummit and Shisha Pangmas central summit.
Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, has summited Cho Oyu, Makalu, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna, Gasherbrum I, and Shisha Pangma (she completed the traverse in alpine style earlier this year). Advocate of alpine style, currently going for her eight 8000er, Gerlinde is considered one of - if not the - top female high altitude climbers. She has also summited Shisha Pangma Central and Broad Peak foresummit.
Edurne Pasabán (31) was born in Tolosa (Basque Country, Spain). Her K2 summit made her the only living female K2 summiteer today. She also has Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, GI, GII and K2, all of them bagged in an amazingly short period of time.
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