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  Jean-Christophe Lafaille Speaks


"Stop to the culture of the polemic, stop to the comedy del arte!"

Above all, I want to thank the partners and my entourage who accompanied me in this a little insane project of the Shishapangma and which follow me in the requiring project of the 14 tops of more than 8000 meters. Thank you also for all the messages of congratulations which we received; they have touched us very much. I want to take the opportunity from these lines to take off my hat to the genius visionary of Doug Scott, Alex Mac Intyre and Roger Baxter Jones which opened this splendid western southern face of Shishapangma in 1982 in an alpine style. Also I take off my hat to Katia who manages during the all year the requirements of such projects and those of our professional life. I am not used to impose my points of view or to make criticisms as well in my personal life as in my alpinist life but just back from Shishapangma, I must react to the rumours which circulate because I do not know if they are not more deafening that the Tibetans winds.

Firstly, I had an official licence winter of ascension of Shishapangma for the winter 2004 delivered by Chinese mountaineering association and Tibetan mountaineering association (see document) and all the services provided by these organizations were paid at the price (high!) of a winter rise. Officially in Tibet, the winter season begins on December 1. On 25 November, I could have tried the ascent towards the top but I waited one week at the base camp in order to be in the official time of Tibetan winter, thus I am very surprised by the criticisms about the dates of the ascent... Beyond the official character, I consider to have climbed this splendid wall under conditions of cold, wind and weak sunning (among the shortest days of the year) except standard compared to my eleven preceding ascents to the more than 8000 meters. The weather reports, the position and the force of the jet stream confirm the winter character of this rise beyond the official dates. I have to point out also the total absence of other expeditions on the mountain (as well on the western southern face as on the normal way) and this becomes an extremely rare situation in the Himalayas; this aspect offered to me one moment of loneliness as impressive as fascinating to living.

Last year on this same western southern face of Shishapangma, at the same period, Andy Parkins and Victor Saunders were blocked at 6500 meters by very violent winds; I do not believe they found the conditions climatic "autumnal"... I also want to recommend to the "fusspots" to read again the excellent story of Erhard Loretan (8000 howling, editions Sarine) on his winter rise (top on December 08, 1985) of the East face of Dhaulagiri with Pierre Alain Steiner and Jean Troillet; not precisely under “autumnal” conditions... All these mountaineers have enough remarkable courses (much more brilliant than some polemicists mountaineers!) not to be regarded as usurpers.

Other small technical precise details: I consider to have opened more an alternative than a new way during this solitary rise winter of Shishapangma because after more than 1000 meters of ascent (half the height of the face) I joined the superb British way of 1982. For the "puristes" I climbed Shishapangma in alpine semi style since I used 300 meters of fine fixed cords (dyneema of Béal) since the wall was in black ice, dries, with threatening séracs and a very delicate rimaye (especially alone...). Also, I have not envisaged to open a new way on this wall but the conditions of the mountain imposes me this judicious but delicate advance in the middle of the face; an "opportunist" opening to some extent. Moreover it is very difficult to get acclimate on this southern slope of Shishapangma.

I consider, despite everything to have climbed in an alpine style 90% of this wall. Moreover the return, the descent is obviously delicate to manage with the tiredness of the top and the constant stiffness of the face; one is well far from a descent length of a normal way... Obviously during two hundred meters I took the only corridor which walks on (dangerously) between two barriers of séracs. (see gallery photographs) This corridor was taken by cords (and initially from the descent) before that of Simone Moro... And the old fixed cords of the winter attempt of last year still in this corridor could not make me doubt about the non virginity of this passage. Is it more sportsman and more interesting for the future of the alpinism to climb Shishapangma after December 21 with two thousand meters of fixed cord and a team of four mountaineers (attempt of 2003/2004) or in very light style and alone on December 11?

My dream was to prove to me that I was able to climb alone, without any support, without artificial oxygen a large Himalayan wall under winter conditions. I made this dream come true. Even if some are not happy about this, I really have much fun on these very high Himalayan tops, up there, well above the top of the human mediocrity, and this is the most important thing! More over, I have learned very much from this rise of Shishapangma and I take an appointment with you for next winter, for a new voyage "in the rare oxygen" and cold Himalayan winter.

Jean-Christophe Lafaille

Translations by Fabienne for EverestNews.com

 

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