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Krzysztof Wielicki sounds off on Shisha winter climb!
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Jan 14, 2005 10: 46 EST
Himalayan winter climbers are so rare it pays to listen when they speak up. Especially while Simone Moro and the Polish are fighting their way up Shisha Pangma, in the middle of a ‘doubtless’ winter for a possibly first virgin winter ascent since 1988.

It would be a shame if their efforts were smudged by a doubt – which unfortunately is exactly what might have happened with Lafaille’s recent claims of a first Shisha winter summit.

Fernando: “It was a ‘late autumn’ climb”

So the climbing community is getting involved. Last was Spanish climber Fernando who did the first 8000+ solo winter climb in the world (Cho Oyu).

He told ExplorersWeb: “I don’t want to steal merits from Lafaille, who has proved to be a first-class Himalayan climber. But, there is no doubt that what he did is not a winter climb, and I don’t think Miss Hawley or any other Himalayan chronicler will approve it as such. Winter begins on December 21 all over the world. There is no place even for this kind of doubt, as he summited before Dec 21. It was a ‘late autumn’ climb.”

Months after Fernando Garrido, on Dec 31, 1988, Krzysztof Wielicki would succeed in the only other solo winter 8000er (main) summit, standing alone on the top of Lhotse. So what does Krzysztof have to say? Spanish climbing magazine Desnivel asked him!

Lafaille: “The first winter ascent is mine”

On their website Desnivel first reprinted Jean Christophe Lafaille’s claims of his new variation on Shisha Pangma, climbed between November14 to December12, 2004. Lafaille’s wife, Katia, assured in a press release that it was a ‘winter climb’ (the first for Shisha Pangma). Jean Christophe confirmed that opinion soon afterwards, alleging that Chinese authorities had issued a winter permit for him. This is contrary to reports that Simone Moro offered earlier last month.

Next Desnivel published the words of Polish ace Krzysztof Wielicki. This is what Krysztof had to say:

Krzysztof: "No desk clerk can move the dates of seasons!"

“Katia, Jean Christophe’s wife, 'broke the news' on her Husband’s wonderful feat on Shisha Pangma exactly on December 12, 2004. The information of the first winter climb to Shisha Pangma has surprised me, because I was taught at school that, in our hemisphere, winter starts on December 21. Although that was quite a long time ago, I believe that fact has not changed (since my school days).”

“Katia! You must see the difference between the deadlines stated in a climbing permit (which is a government decision) and the real winter, according to Nature’s order. One can climb a mountain disobeying a government order, for example by summiting on February 28 , after the permit is over. But no civil servant can move the dates of seasons!”

December 1 the day when the teams reach Base Camp

“Nepal’s ministry of Tourism set December 1 as the beginning of mountain winter activities, understanding this as the day when the teams reach Base Camp, and February 15 as the day when teams must abandon Base Camp. The reasons were shallow: we were told in 1979 that ‘winter’ was shortened to Feb15 because the Sherpas has asked for it, in order to have some rest days before the spring expedition season started.”

November climb on a winter permit?

“A different question may be if Jean Christophe has not broken the laws: he climbed on November but he had a winter permit. In that case, he would have needed an additional autumn permit. Or perhaps he had that permit? I believe he had."

"My experience tells me – and I have taken part in seven winter expeditions to Himalaya and Karakorum – that in the beginning of November the wind blows very hard –sometimes it starts already on October – but by the end of November it drops down and remains relatively calm – it can still blows at summit level - until Christmas. Usually by Christmas come the first, moderate snowfalls."

Excellent autumn weather on old route?

"Sometimes these snowfalls are the last before spring. Usually the wind picks up since Christmas. Therefore, I think Jean Christophe has enjoyed excellent autumn weather conditions."
"On a different subject, the 'new' route Katia mentions is not so, but a new way to get to the British route, and not a very logical one: it consists in traversing three other routes, including the one I opened in 1993. The Britons had climbed a very logical route."

Spanish and Czech climbing the British route in alpine style

"I don’t mean to steal the merit to Jean Christophe ascent, who has otherwise accomplished some very interesting climbs. In this case though, I must add that during autumn 2004 there has been Spanish and Czech climbing the British route in alpine style, without fixing ropes, while the media remained in complete silence."

Well, there is one thing we can’t agree on at Explorersweb: Not all the media remained silent on the Spanish and Czech climbs. We had them of course – Check the link section!

Image of the routes on Shisha Pangma - Lafailles route is marked yellow - courtesy of the team.

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