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Asia, Tibet, Shisha Pangma Attempt on Skis

Shisha Pangma Attempt on Skis. Stephen Koch invited me to join Chuck Armatys, Mike Sinclair, Scott Gould, Kurt Papenfus and Australian David Hume on a post-monsoon fast and light attempt on Shisha Pangma. We bicycled from the Nepalese-Tibetan border to Base Camp, which saved much money. Stephen Koch hoped to snowboard and I to ski down much of the mountain. Hume reached the expedition’s high point of 7990 meters below the central summit, but was driven back by wind, still some 600 linear meters away. I attempted to gain the central summit via the spectacular couloir on the north face, which tops out on a col to the west of the central summit [first climbed by Hinkes and Untch in 1988]. At five A.M. on October 2, I left Camp II at 6800 meters by headlamp, skinned across the plateau and up the slope at the beginning of the couloir. Windslab made me change to crampons, at times breakable and thigh-deep. In the main couloir, I front-pointed a 40-meter crux section to gain the broader, less steep part of the couloir above. I left my skis at 7600 meters. I continued up to the top of the couloir at 7800 meters into a howling wind and spindrift. From the col, a small but steep rock knob and a section of knife-edged arête would have had to be climbed to gain the central summit. I decided to descend to my skis. I could do only some eight turns before stopping to gasp. I side-slipped through the narrowest five meters of the crux. From there I enjoyed the last skiing back to camp. My two summit bids with Koch were stymied by wind before we got higher than 7000 meters.

Mark Newcomb