After only 10 days back in Kathmandu I am in the process of packing again for Shisha Pangma – the 14th highest peak in the world, which is entirely situated in Tibet. It reaches out to 8,027 metres above sea-level and is the smallest of the 8,000m-peaks. It was first climbed by a Chinese team on 2nd May 1964, and the first woman to scale this gigantic peak without the help of supplemental oxygen was Marianne Walter from Germany, who reached the top on 29th April 1983.
Generally, Shisha Pangma, which literally means “the mountain overlooking the grassy plains” is considered a non-technical climb but it definitely has its challenges. The normal route via the North Ridge ‘only’ leads to the fore summit (8,008m) leaving you with a knife-edge ridge of often very unstable snow to cross. The success rate to the fore summit or Central summit is pretty high, however, this is where many people stop as the ridge is often in a bad condition and too dangerous to cross.
As Miss Hawley and the Himalayan Database only cover peaks in Nepal (including the North side of both Mt Everest and Cho Oyu), I had to do some research to get some more data on Shisha Pangma. Initially I thought that there was very little available but then Eberhard Jurgalski, who covers all 8,000m peaks with his website www.8000ers.com, left a message on this website to clarify the numbers. According to Eberhard, 320 people, 17 of which were women, have reached the Main summit and around 836 (72 women) have stood on top of the Central summit up until now. Thanks Eberhard for providing me with these figures.
After having reached the top of four 8,000m-peaks so far, it has become important to me to make it to the real summit, so I hope that we will have a chance. We will probably opt for the Inaki route, which is a line first climbed by the late Basque climber Inaki Ochoa de Olza in 2006. The route veers to the left from Camp 3 surpassing the Central summit going directly to the Main summit. The challenge of this route is that it goes via a wide slope and if loaded with snow, it can be very avalanche prone. “There is one advice I can give you,” Austrian climber Hans Goger told me. “If you see black rocks in the middle of the slope, you can go; if not stay away from it.” I thought this was a very good piece of advice and I guess that even I will be able to see that.
So the past week was filled with meeting friends, seeing teams for Miss Elizabeth Hawley, trying to sort out a room in Islamabad, where I will be going for a month straight after the expedition, and getting ready for the next big mountain. Sometimes, life is fast and I feel that before I even have settled back into the craziness of Kathmandu, I am ready to leave again. The capital of Nepal boggles my mind at times and after having lived here on and off for 10 years it still has not ceased to surprise me. The roads are still under construction and reaching Miss Hawley’s house poses a real challenge as you have to dodge manholes that could swallow a person including bike; falling rocks from the buildings that are being torn down and the huge lakes that form when the monsoon pelts down for more than five minutes.
My friend Ale from Lausanne visited me for four days and I was amazed how well she coped with the madness of this place. She was a real trooper negotiating the crazy traffic on a bike and joining me for my runs, which are colourful but also filled with many different smells. “I guess being here makes me notice, how sterile our Swiss world is,” she said after having passed an extremely smelly pig stye. “Whether good or bad – I have encountered so many different odours since I have been here and even though it is not always pleasant, it makes you feel alive.”
Yes, Kathmandu certainly makes you feel alive and keeps you on your toes and it’s great to be back. I feel lucky that I can get a taste of different worlds and appreciate different things in every place I live. Things I love in Switzerland, I certainly miss in Nepal and vice versa. I sometimes long for fresh clean air as biking around Kathmandu has become a huge challenge with the dust that is whirling around the capital as the road widening scheme is still not finished. On the other hand, I love the chaos and the spirituality, which is best noticed when you go to one of the many Hindu or Buddhist temples in Kathmandu.
After having dropped off Ale at the airport on Monday at the crack of dawn, I opted to run to Boudha Stupa, which is one of the largest spherical stupas in the world. In 1979 it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site and every day, hundreds of Buddhist, tourists and other worshippers go there to do the ‘kora‘, which is the circumambulation of a holy place.
To put it in a nutshell, it has been good to be back in Kathmandu but by the same token I am looking forward to getting out into the hills again, and to go back to Tibet. If you want to follow my expedition, have a look at this website, however, due to limited internet it might be difficult for me to maintain. However, I will send regular tweets and you will probably find updates on www.kobler-partner.ch. And if you need to get in touch with me for some reason, you can send me a free SMS to my number +88216-21370592 using the Thuraya website .
Thanks for following!