14x8000ers quest: Norbert Joos the firmest candidate to join
(MountEverest.net) At this point, only 12 men and no woman have summited all 14 8000ers in the world. Italian Reinhold Messner proclaimed himself the first Himalayan champion from the summit of Lhotse in 1986; the latest to achieve the feat was American Ed Viesturs, who finished his quest last year on Annapurna. In addition, only 5 men made it without O2: Messner, Viesturs, Swiss Erhard Loretan, and Spaniards Juan Oiarzabal and Alberto Iñurategi. Question is now, who’ll be the “lucky thirteenth” 14x8000er summiteer?
Norbert Joos – next up?
Seven climbers have already stepped on summit number 13 of the big ones: Among them, Swiss mountain guide Norbert Joos is the favorite bet for the next 14, 8000ers championship.
After summiting Kangchenjunga earlier this year, Norbert has only Everest left to go. He confirmed to ExWeb that he'll lead an expedition there next spring.
Second in line is Italian Silvio Mondinelli, who summited Annapurna last month, and thus has only Broad Peak to go.
As for the others though, it is unclear if any of them will ever complete the quest – for several reasons:
The proclaimers, the burnt-out rescuers, and the dead
Italian Fausto de Stefani and British Alan Hinkes claim they’re already done, although one of their reported summits is not accepted by the climbing community. According to AdventureStats, Fausto didn’t step on the true summit of Lhotse, whilst Hinkes never reached the highest point on Cho Oyu’s plateau. None of them have reported they'll end the controversy by repeating these “unclear” peaks.
Polish Piotr Pustelnik said earlier this year he will never again attempt the only peak he’s got left: Annapurna. Statistically the most dangerous of all 8000ers, Pustelnik decided it was enough after attempting it for the third time in spring last year. “This mountain sucked up all my climbing skills, my humanity,” he said. After decades of climbing, Pustelnik led his last 8000er expedition this past summer - and summited Broad Peak - his 8000er number 13.
Blanc's doomed mountain
Many 14x8000ers collectors leave Annapurna for the end. The peak has turned away many seasoned climbers and some of the best ones have met death on its avalanche-prone slopes. Such is the case of Kazakh Anatoly Boukreev and the previous strongest candidate for the 14x8000ers quest: Italian Christian Kuntner. A falling serac killed Kuntner last year during his summit push on Anna, his last 8000er. The accident left three of his mates injured, among them Abele Blanc - also out on his final peak to complete the quest.
Blanc returned to Annapurna this fall, but a family tragedy forced him back to Italy. It is unclear if he will ever find strength to return to this doomed peak again, where he has faced so much misfortune already.
Racers gaining posts
Fortune turned its back on Blanc, but finally smiled at one of his Anna climbing mates from both the tragic 2005 expedition and 2006 attempt: Silvio 'Gnaro' Mondinelli. After Abele returned home, Mondinelli summited Anna on October 12 - in his third attempt on the mountain. The victory putting the 13th 8000er under his belt.
Now, Mondinelli has only Broad Peak left to go. As the Pakistani peak is climbed in summer, Joos should become the next 14x8000er summiteer - but if he fails on Everest next spring other 8000er baggers could steal his position. Silvio being the closest, but also followed by a handfull of climbers with 12x8000ers already summited.
12, 8000ers summited
Finnish Veikka Gustafsson and Russian Serguey Bogomolov both have only two peaks left. Serguey survived a deadly avalanche on K2 this summer, which killed four of his Russian climbing mates.
Ecuadorian Ivan Vallejo have also reached 12 8000er summits and have only Dhaulagiri and Annapurna left.
Extreme climber and skier Italian Hans Kammerlander who also summited 12th 8000ers, has now shifted focus to new alpine-style routes on lesser peaks.
There is no information on Tibetan climbers Cering Doje and Bianba Zaxi – whose team was caught in a landslide last year when they were approaching the Gasherbrums. Their mate Rena (also with 12 8000ers summited) died and the survivors were injured, although it's not clear how badly.
11, 8000ers summited
Australian Andrew Lock, Spanish Iñaki Ochoa, and German Ralf Dujmovits, all with 11 8000ers summited, may well eventually join the club of Himalayan Champions. Ralf is also Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner's partner, she in turn leading the female quest with nine 8000ers summited.
Finally, fans of 8000er stats should keep an eye on Nepalese Serap Jangbu Sherpa who has summited 9 out of the 14 main 8000ers... three of them only this year, including an Everest traverse! Serap has also summited Cho Oyu twice, Lhotse twice, and K2 twice. Usually working for Korean expeditions, he is decided to become the first Sherpa and first Himalayan native to join this golden Himalayan mountaineering assembly.
14x8000er summiteers are Swiss Reinhold Messner (1986), Polish Jerzy Kukuczka (1987), Swiss Erhard Loretan (1995), Mexican Carlos Carsolio (1996), Polish Krysztof Wielicki (1996), Spanish Juan Oiarzabal ('99 – without O2 2001), Italian Sergio Martini (2000), Korean Young-Seok Park (2001), Spanish Alberto Iñurategi (2002), Korean Wang Yong Han (2003), and American Edmund Viesturs (2005).
Swiss Norbert Joos plans on leading a team on Everest, his last 8000er, next spring. Gnaro Mondinelli may attempt BP in summer 2007.