How to summit an 8,000 meter peak – choosing your day wisely

We were a week into our Shishipangma expedition, in the less than predictable post-monsoon season. Yet the weather was perfect.

We were up pre-dawn and climbing higher every day. In 10 days we had Camp 1 and 2 ready, with plans to skip 3. Weather reports were good. Gear was packed, food in place, no oxygen to worry about.

It is Shishipangma after all, the lowest of the 8,000rs, where extra air really is just cheating. I talked to my Sirdar – “when shall we go?”

Shishipangma, Himalayas, 8000 meter peak,
Shishipangma from Tibet. The route goes up the sunlit ridge just right of centre.

“Can I just use the Sat. phone?” he asked. A long phone call ensues.

“Ok, we wait another day,” he says. I reset the plan, the weather is cloudy now, but ok.

Next day, another meeting with my Sirdar, “Here is what I think, when shall we go?” I ask impatiently.

“Can I just use the Sat. phone?” he requests. Another long conversation on the phone.

Day three, same thing, “Heh lets go,” I say.

My Sirdar gets on the phone, it is 11 a.m.

“Ok” he says, “We go now.”  We have a big lunch, we pack up, we head up to Camp 1.

Shishipangma, 8000 meter peak, Everest, Himalayas
Shishipangma in the far distance from the top of Everest. Everest shadow lower right and the blackness of space above. (I do think this is right, though it could of been a high altitude mirage.)

The next day we climb on to Camp 2. The weather is perfect. We sleep fast, get up at 2 a.m., are at Camp 3 on the ridge at sunrise.

The snow deepens, we have a small team, and only a few Sherpa’s. We are all taking turns breaking trail up the spectacular ridge. There are no ropes, no-one in front of us, no trail. It’s long and hard, but by 4:30 p.m. we summit.

Yes, a bit late, but skies are clear and wind is low. The snow is deep, but we hug the ridge and stay off the slopes below. We have headlamps, what is there to worry about? We are back in Camp 2 by 11 p.m.

We wander back to Base Camp the next day, I’m walking with the Sirdar.

“All ok at home?” “Oh yes, he says. I thought all the phone calls were something family related in Kathmandu. I was curious.

“Do you want to use the Sat phone when we get back?”

“Oh yes,” he says, “I must call the Lama.”

“The Lama?”

“Yes,” my Sirdar says, “he picked the Lucky Day.”

So much for modern technology, digitized weather reports, high camp logistics and team acclimatisation.

Just climb 8,000 meter peaks on a Lama certified Lucky Day.

As told to Peter Hillary’s National Geographic group on their return from Tibet, Kathmandu, October, 2018. 

From an Expedition with Jagged Globe.

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