Heart-stopping moment at icy heights

China LOWA PRO Team athlete Ines Papert decided to climb her first eight-thou­sander together with Luka Lindič: the south face of Shishapangma, no less – alpine-style of course. Yet the character of the entire expedition changed within a few hours shortly after it started.

Ines Papert on her way up

Ines Papert on her way up

The south face of Shishapangma is an extreme moun­tain­eering classic. It features steep, tech­nically very chal­lenging climbs. Only very few teams venture an ascent via the tough south face. So it’s not surprising that Ines and Luka are the only ones attempting it this year. The two of them reach base camp at an altitude of 5300 metres on 17 April with a bit of assistance.

river freeze winter

“From here on we’re on our own. No sherpa, no fixed ropes, no bottled oxygen. We’re climbing as a small team.”

Ines Papert | LOWA PRO Team

But before they tackle the south face of Shishapangma, the two athletes need to get accli­matised. To do this, the team selected Nyanang Ri (7071m), which is linked to Shishapangma via a ridge. All the material they need is trans­ported to the mountain and the weather window seems adequate, so they begin their ascent on 30 April. At an altitude of 6300 metres they set up their second bivouac, which they position in a crevasse beneath the slope. Safe and well-protected is how Papert later recalls the feeling she had as they chose where to bed down. Yet the incessant snowfall throughout the night was to change all that rapidly.

At around five in the morning, the LOWA PRO Team athlete recalls, the entire slope starts sliding away – an avalanche!

river freeze winter

“We woke with a start when we realised what had just happened and imme­diately recognised that the situation was serious. While Luka left the tent via the entrance, I panicked and ripped a hole in the tent, because air was already running short. The weight of snow was already putting pressure on my body and I just wanted to get out of there. Luka pulled me out of the tent and we both stood out in the open in our socks, watching as our tent disap­peared beneath the mass of snow. Luka managed to retrieve our boots at the last minute.”

Ines Papert | LOWA PRO Team

In search of shelter

They seek shelter in a small ice cave nearby and wait for the weather to calm. As soon as the weather permits, Luka Lindič digs his way through the masses of snow in search of their equipment – without it, they are trapped on the mountain. Two long hours later they manage to salvage all their gear from the tent, which has been completely destroyed, and begin their descent.

Ines recalls that they were impressed despite their experience. “We were in shock for days, yet we decided to continue with the expedition. We are climbers and moun­taineers – there is no rational explanation for a decision to continue after an experience like that. Yet how should one handle the situation without constantly panicking? There followed plenty of conver­sations that resulted in the decision: ‘We’re staying’. Yet our actual objective, Shishapangma, was already receding into the distance”, is how Ines attempts to put it all into words. Papert and Lindič do not risk another attempt to climb Nyanang Ri: their new goal is Pungpa Ri.

river freeze winter

“We decided to target a new objective and attempt the unclimbed west face of Pungpa Ri.”

Ines Papert | LOWA PRO Team

  • Start of the climb on Pungpa Ri.

No luck on the way to the summit

But even the athletes’ second objective, the summit of Pungpa Ri (7450m), which is also connected to Shishapangma, brings them no luck. Almost daily snowfall makes advance planning extremely difficult. During a narrow weather window in mid-May, when less snowfall but high wind speeds and icy temper­atures of around –28 degrees Celsius are forecast at the summit, the team leaves out the ABC and ascends to an altitude of 6500 metres. The plan is to complete the remaining 1000 metres of altitude the next morning, but nothing comes of this plan either.

river freeze winter

“I lost what little sensation I had in my fingers while I was putting on my climbing harness, and wondered how I was going to make it to the summit. Never­theless we climbed a little higher. But soon I realised that I was not going to make it. A dreadful feeling of complete weakness took hold.”

Ines Papert | LOWA PRO Team

  • Difficult conditions on the mountain

    Difficult conditions on the mountain

For their own safety Papert and Lindič decide to abort this ascent attempt as well – as exper­ienced athletes, they don’t want to risk another episode like the one on Nyanang Ri. After their exper­iences on Nyanang Ri, the volatile weather conditions throughout the expedition and in view of the fact that they were unable to get adequately accli­matised, Team Papert and Lindič ulti­mately decide to abort the entire expedition.

  • In the nice weather hours was our base camp really a paradise with a great view towards Shishapangma.

The shoe

“You need warm and, above all, comfortable shoes to take on chal­lenging routes at great heights. I have the perfect companion in the expedition 6000 EVO RD.”

EXPEDITION 6000 EVO RD: Just like the EXPEDITION 8000 EVO RD, this expedition boot was put together with the input of the extreme moun­taineer Ralf Dujmovits and the know-how of LOWA. The strengths of the EXPEDITION 6000 EVO RD really come into play on western Alpine tours and exped­itions up to 6,000 metres. The removable inner boot is espe­cially comfortable, with 200 grams of Prim­aloft® insu­lation and an extremely fast-drying Drylex inner lining.

The facts

4 weeks
Very difficult conditions