By RMI Expeditions guide Elías de Andrés-Martos; photos by RMI Team.
On September 3, 2011, I, along with fellow RMI guides Geoff Schellens, Leon Davis, Eric Frank and Jake Beren, and my wife, Bridget Schletty, started the conquest of a long-time dream: to climb an 8,000-meter peak employing a minimalist style—without bottled oxygen or the help of sherpas.
Shishapangma is one of only 14 peaks in the world higher than 8,000 meters. Located entirely in Tibet, Shishapangma means “crest above the grassy plains” in the local language, and has two differentiated summits: the south summit at 8,027 meters and the central summit at 8,013 meters. After a few weeks of research at base camp, the team decided on the central summit as the objective with which to start our Himalayan career in such a style.
None of us had been to the Himalayas before, let alone climbed that height. For her part, Bridget was only one of six women who attempted Shisha without bottled oxygen or the help of sherpas this year. Committing to a climb of this caliber using minimal support was a daring endeavor, but passion and desire were heavier than statistics, so we went on.
Having been on summits of North and South America, along with other major mountains outside of the Himalayas, was definitely a huge help. Our climbing and guiding experience set up the team for success. On top of that, our FA gear was the right “counterattack” to fight the cold conditions of the northernmost eight-thousander. But it was not easy. Minimal support meant we traveled up and down the mountain more often, more loaded, more distances, more tired.
After a few strong snowstorms that forced the team to wait down at base camp longer than expected, Bridget, Jake, Geoff and myself (on Oct. 11) and Leon (on the 12th) reached the central summit of the mountain (in part thanks to the high quality FA downs suits we wore). It was hard—very hard. But on a warm summit day like we had, the views of the highest mountains of the world around us were a big enough prize to “patch the muscle damage” left by exertion. Two days of descent and we were back at base camp to recover before going back up a ways to retrieve some of the gear that was too heavy to be carried in just one trip.
Back in Kathmandu, and after a couple of days of eating for hours on end and resting, some of the members went back to venture through the Himalayas to explore “future objectives.”
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