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Asia, Tibet, Shisha Pangma Central Ascent and Tragedy

Shisha Pangma Central Ascent and Tragedy. Our expedition to Shisha Pangma without supplementary oxygen or Sherpas was composed of Dave McNally, leader, Mack Ellerby, Tod Gassen, Bruce Hennessey, Ted Handwerk, Peter Nichols and me. New Zealander Siobhan Quayle was Base Camp manager. We arrived at Chinese Base Camp at Shisha Pangma on August 17, and climbing the original Chinese north-ridge route, established Advance Base, Deposit Camp and Camps I, II and III at 5500, 5800, 6350, 6800 and 7200 meters on August 24, 27, September 2, 10 and October 8. Progress was slowed by monsoon-induced heavy snows. Waist-and chest-deep snow above Camp III turned back two Italian teams, a Slovak group and a French expedition. On September 19, two French climbers were avalanched off the summit ridge down to about 7300 meters. One of the climbers was lost overnight and found embedded in the snow by Jean-Christophe Lafaille and Domenique Caillat, who climbed up from Advance Base that day. While seriously frostbitten, he was no doubt saved by their effort. Unfortunately, on September 18, Gassen was killed in a crevasse fall below Camp I, while climbing alone. In late September, extremely high winds swept much of the snow off the ridge above Camp III. On September 27, Ellerby, Hennessey, Handwerk and I started up from Advance Base but the wind forced us back from Camp II on October 2. On the 8th, Hennessey, Handwerk and I left Advance Base after a rest day and established Camp III in high winds. On October 9, we left Camp III at nine A.M. in clear, cold and windy weather. Snow conditions varied from hard crust to unconsolidated knee-deep powder. Handwerk reached the central summit at two P.M. and Hennessey and I at three P.M. The wind on the knife-edged summit ridge forced us to climb the last few meters on all-fours. The winds grew in intensity on the descent.

Larry Hall