The attempt on Shishapangma’s main summit did not go as planned. After climbing direct to camp 2 on the first day of the push, we continued up the mountain the following day but unfortunately my companions were too tired to climb to C3 at 7300 metres, so we were obliged to make a camp 2.5 around 7000 metres. That meant an earlier start and longer climb to the summit. Dawa complained of illness that night, so just Neil and I set out at 1am into the forecast fine weather. (All other teams on the mountain were busy waiting in bc until the route was established by someone else.)
Around 3am a fierce blizzard blew in and within 20 minutes we were searching desperately for shelter on the steep face. We eventually carved a small step in the snow and hunkered down until dawn. The wind hadn’t eased but at least we could wear our goggles and descend in the whipping snow and ice. So much for the forecast, although the wind abated later that afternoon. Unfortunately our cameras were so frozen that we couldn’t take pictures of our ice caked faces for your visual entertainment.
On Sunday the weather was better and we climbed to c3 by 5am. Neil stopped due to exhaustion but I felt strong and continued climbing for the next few hours, looking for safe ground to make the traverse over to the main summit. That opportunity didn’t arise as I set off several slab avalanches in the process. A final opportunity to traverse after climbing a steep rock buttress wasn’t possible without a partner to belay me up the rock, so reluctantly I accepted reality and turned around at 7800 metres to descend. Better to live and climb another day but I could see, and almost feel, the top… Bugger. In any case another storm blew in shortly afterwards, at least hiding the summit from view and motivating a (relatively) hasty descent.
The next day, as we descended slowly to abc, we watched somewat cynically as at least 5 large commercial teams started up up our ropes and tracks on the lower part of the mountain. The new face of Himalayan climbing?
Not summiting was disappointing but by no means the end of the world, as Shishapangma was primarily intended as an acclimatisation climb for the main objective, Annapurna 1.
The journey continues..