(By Raheel Adnan) Double 8 team - Andrea Zambaldi, Benedikt Böhm and Sebastian Haag - was on a mission to speed climb two eight-thousanders, Shishapangma and Cho Oyu, within a week. On their first mountain, Shishapangma, they had been battling difficult conditions since past few weeks. Yesterday, they were approaching the summit, when an avalanche hit the team. Andrea Zambaldi and Sebastian Haag were buried under the snow and are still missing.
A week ago, excessive snow forced the three climbers to retreat from 7700m. However, on September 23rd, they launched their second (and final) summit-bid on the mountain. This time, they were also joined by Swiss Ueli Steck and German Martin Maier.
As per information from Base Camp, Benedikt Boehm and Ueli Steck started the “speed ascent” from ABC (5600m) at 04:30PM (Nepalese time) on September 23rd. They reached C1 (6300m) at around 08:00PM and as planned, Sebastian Haag joined them from there.
While the three climbers continued their ascent from C1, two more members Martin Maier and Andrea Zambaldi who were in C2 at that time, also started climbing up. The two groups met each other just below C3 at around 01:00 AM (September 24th). They all arrived at C3 (7100m) at 2:00AM. At 06:50AM, it’s said that the team was merely 100m below summit and were hoping to be at the top by 08:00AM.
The climbers have been communicating about difficult and dangerous conditions on the mountain throughout the ascent. Benedikt Boehm’s message from 7700m read, “the deep, windblown snow is killing us,” and from 7850m he said, “fighting, fighting, fighting. Heaps of snow and high risk of avalanche … Frustrating!!”
Unfortunately, the danger materialized in disaster when the climbers were at 7900m. An avalanche swept Zambaldi, Haag and Maier 600m down, 'over steep glaciers, into another section of the mountain'. Steck and Boehm immediately asked for help from BC and headed down to avalanche zone for a possible search and rescue operation. It’s reported that despite trying for four hours, they couldn’t reach there, “there was no access to the avalanche zone.”
However, Martin Maier somehow survived the avalanche, spent the night in open and appeared at C3, this morning (September 25th). Sherpa are assisting him on descent to BC. Details of his survival are not known, yet.
Andrea Zambaldi and Sebastian Haag are unfortunately still missing.
Based in Lahore, Pakistan, telecom engineer and mountaineering enthusiast Raheel Adnan is a reporter for Explorersweb's mountaineering sections. He shares regular updates on Twitter and runs his own blog at Altitude Pakistan posting initiated climbing news from Himalaya and Karakoram.
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