Autumn 2023 Himalayan Season: Deaths on Shishapangma

After what was a safe and busy season with scores of heavily supported clients summiting Manaslu, the odds caught up with climbers on Shishapangma, the only 8000er fully in Tibet. American Anna Gutu with Migmar Sherpa are confirmed dead. Reported missing are American, Gina Marie Rzucidlo and Tenjen Lama Sherpa. Lama was Kristin Harila’s partner in summiting all the 8000ers in ninety-two days earlier this year. Both Americans were seeking the record to become the first female to summit all fourteen 8000-meter peaks.

The weather had been difficult this autumn, with strong winds and heavy snow, a potentially perfect combination for slab avalanches. Usually, climbers will take twenty-four to forty-eight hours after heavy snow to let the new snow bond to the old snow; otherwise, movement on the fresh layer can trigger an avalanche that caries a person downslope, out of control.

The Americans were with Elite Expeditions and Seven Summits Treks Climbalaya. Neither has acknowledged the deaths or missing on their social media or websites as of this post, only the successes of their Sherpas on Manaslu and promotions for upcoming expeditions.

The avalanche occurred around 7800 meters on the 8,027-meter peak. China does not allow helicopters to be used for mountaineering rescues, so ground teams are used for all rescues and searches.

Media reports have multiple injuries to other climbers, including Kami Rita Sherpa, Mitra Bahadur Tamang and Karma Gyalzen Sherpa. Note that this Kami Rita who holds the record for the most Everest summits at twenty-eight, is not the one on Shish, I’m told he’s in Kathmandu, quite safe.

Record Race

The Pakistani youth continued their drive to get all fourteen, with Shehroze Kashif, 21, nabbing Cho Oyu, his thirteenth. He is supposed to head over to Shish, so we’ll see if that changes now. Other Pakistanis who summited Cho were Sirbaz Khan and Naila Kiani. Also in the race for records is Nepali Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, 32, who got Cho, her thirteenth. And the youth trend continues with Nima Rinji Sherpa, 17 getting Cho Oyu, his tenth 800ers.

This race for records is fraught with risk. One has to question the value of records in this style.

My condolences to the families of the fallen.

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