Avalanche on Tibet's Shisha Pangma Kills Two

Mountaineers were hoping to climb two 8,000-meter peaks in 7 days

Sep 25, 2014
Outside Magazine
Himalaya Dynafit 2014

The expedition team caught in the avalanche were covering the distance between base camps using only bikes and running shoes.    Elias Lefas

A high-altitude avalanche on Shisha Pangma, a 26,335-foot peak in Tibet, claimed the lives of two mountaineers on September 24. The two climbers, German Sebastian “Basti” Haag and Italian Andrea Zambaldi, were part of a five-person team that day that also included German Benedikt “Beni” Bohm, Martin Maier, and noted Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck. 

The ascent of Shisha Pangma was the first stage of an ambitious expedition by Benedikt Bohm, Sebastian Haag, and Andrea Zambaldi, who were attempting to climb and ski two 8,000-meter peaks in seven days (Shisha Pangma and then 26,906-foot Cho Oyu, which straddles the Tibet-Nepal border), without supplemental oxygen, and cover the distance between base camps using only bikes and running shoes 

However, Wednesday morning at roughly 6:55 a.m. local time, as the five-person team was nearing the summit of Shisha Pangma, Haag, Zambaldi, and Maier were caught in an avalanche roughly 300 feet below the summit. The three climbers were swept 1,800 feet, over rugged glaciers, into a different section of the mountain. Bohm and Steck immediately called their support team at basecamp for assistance, and then skied down to Camp 3, at approximately 23,294 feet, so they could begin to traverse into the avalanche zone and search for their teammates. After several hours trying to figure how to even access the area, the two were finally forced to abandon their efforts.

Some 24 hours later, early in the morning on September 25, Maier, who had somehow managed to survive the avalanche, arrived at Camp 3, where he was greeted by a Sherpa rescue team that was gearing up to go out and continue the search. According to Eric Henderson, communications manager for Dynafit, who was sponsoring the two-peak expedition, Maier, whose condition was only listed as “conscious,” was immediately transported to basecamp for further medical attention.

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