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  Jean-Christophe Lafaille Winter Makalu: 7500 meters!


Translation by Dr. Jean-François for EverestNews.com


This is quite an ordeal... Winds are so strong (120-130-140 km/h) that Jean-Christophe wasn't able to spend a single night at Makalu La (7400 m)!  Not once but twice he tried his very best, in those furious conditions, to get there and establish a camp. Yesterday morning (January 11th), while trying to pitch his specially built Mountain Hardwear tent, a terrible gust made it fly 10 m over his head and disappear into the void (luckily, he does have another tent)!  Forecasted winds were about 80-90 km/h, but Jean-Christophe told me that there was a "venturi" effect .  It’s an acceleration of wind in narrowing areas such as cols; the speed of the wind stays the same but this acceleration make it feels a lot more stronger than its actual



Here’s a little recapitulation of the last days.  Last Sunday (January

8th), Jean-Christophe left BC and slept at 6000 m.  Monday (January 9th), he climbed up to 6900 m, then he reached Makalu La Tuesday (January 10th ).  That was hellish as winds were about 120 to 130 km/h; he was constantly pushed against the ground and he could only leave a bag and a tent there.  Then he climbed down to 6900 m in order to shelter himself from the wind storm in his other little tent. He did suffer from the cold associated to that sort of torturous wind.

Yesterday (January 11th), he  climbed again to Makalu La, at 7400 m, because weather forecasts were to be a little bit better (80 to 90 km/h winds at Makalu La)…  He was expecting to spend a night at the Col, at last, in order to complete his high altitude acclimatization. In fact, he reached 7500 m in those gale winds and did survey the upper part of Makalu.  Back to the Col,   then the strong gust attacked him and his tent!  Jean-Christophe had to retreat to 6900 m.  Two times, gusts of about 130 to 140 km/h literally made him fly; only his ice axes were able to hold him back!!!  Safely back to his 6900 m tent, he could get some well deserved food and rest.


The Messner route isn’t looking good at all… The French way looks just a little bit better, but the summit ridge doesn’t seem to be too steep. Despite these terrible conditions, Jean-Christophe had a strong voice on the phone.  Motivation is standing still and sensations are good. Physically, he felt more than o.k. at 7500 m.  Today, he was to climb back to BC where he’s going have to wait patiently for a weather window.


See you soon, Katia.


Translation by Dr. Jean-François for EverestNews.com


background below

Winter 2005/2006: First Makalu’s winter ascent and solo!!!

Jean-Christophe Lafaille will realize during winter 2005/2006, his twelfth summit higher than 8000 meters with the first winter ascent solo and without oxygen to the MAKALU 8481 meters. This mountain was tried several times in winter by expeditions known as "heavy" (see appendix; "Alpine" style and "heavy" expeditions) of which one was by Reinhold Messner.

The ascent of the first 8000 in winter by Jean-Christophe, on December 11, 2004 on the "Shishapangma" (8036m) served to him as a test for the incoming project. He made up a very positive assessment of its mental and physical resistance under extreme conditions and could evaluate the aspects to be practised in its preparation. Polish, specialists in heavy winter expeditions, affirmed that it was impossible to carry out a winter ascent of a 8000 in alpine style (see appendix; The "Alpine" style and "heavy" expeditions) With the ascent of Shishapangma Jean-Christophe still showed that it was possible while being alone, without infrastructure at the base camp besides its cook!

Partners/Products: Since one year we are hard working on the preparation of this winter 2005. This preparation includes clothing and the technical material, the food, the physical training and the mental one. Beyond the physical and mental training, the word "protection" joins together the whole of our technical partners on different points thus complementary. Without them, without this confidence regarding their know-how this project would not be possible.

GORE-TEX Products. These products make possible the impossible, products which ensure an irreproachable and completely reliable protection to be calm in any circumstance. Collaboration with GORE-TEX lasts already for almost 10 years and enables Jean-Christophe to profit from new technologies, to have products made to measure to answer the extremely demanding schedule of his conditions. A product or a weakening membrane, badly conceived at 8000 meters can cost the life to Jean-Christophe. He does not have right to the error and neither the manufacturers. Collaboration that Jean-Christophe maintains with his technical partners goes beyond "sponsoring", it is above all the reciprocal confidence and the best which surround him. They form part of the key of its success. 

Jean-Christophe will use for this winter Makalu 2005 Mountain Hardwear in GORE-TEX XCR products and sleeping bags as well as the tents of altitude Mountain Hardwear which currently are the best on the market. Under the request of Jean-Christophe, they carried out a tent of bivouac ultra light for this winter. 

Lestra Sport and Jean-Christophe have designed an "innovative” sleeping bag for his expedition in December 2004, it will go out again with this perfect product baptized "Shishapangma" by Lestra Sports. The “dry salaisons"Black Mountain", bring quality products with essential nutritional interests in expeditions; Jean-Christophe regularly consumes them throughout the year and during his expeditions. Collaboration with LPG Systems which develops and manufactures machines which enable to work balance, coordination, the muscular reinforcement, recovery allow to refine this demanding preparation.

The Team: It is made up, of course, by the partners of Jean-Christophe but also by:

Katia Lafaille: wife and manager of Jean-Christophe.

Yan Giezendanner: Router weather

René Même: fitness trainer.

Professionalism: Since four years, Jean-Christophe has still reached a stage in his course, the ascents which he has carried out for all these years make that he has acquired maturity and experience while remaining passionate by what he does. The projects which he considers today join together these elements and require an extremely high preparation. Absolutely nothing is left randomly, material, alimentation, physique, mental, relax, each element of his preparation is thoroughly calculated, studied to reach the "perfection". It is something new in the world of the mountain, extremely enriching and interesting. Passion, professionalism, assiduity, perseverance, the patience of Jean-Christophe and those around him make possible his ascents very committed on the summits of more than 8000 meters.

Why?: The complete autonomy, as Jean-Christophe likes it; to well manage its strategy of ascent under conditions of extreme cold, its tiredness, and its mental force. He does not wish to climb the summits of more than 8000 meters only to collect them, he gives a great importance to the way in which he will climb this or that mountain. He likes the difficulty, engagement, to explore the universe of the high altitude. He has never used an artificial oxygen contribution in expedition (which lowers the person of approximately 1000m which means to say that one person who reaches 8000 m with oxygen is in fact physiologically at 7000m... in sporting terms it is not the same...) because what interests him is precisely to climb there by himself. If he did not have the physiological capacity to climb the 8000, he would simply climb less high tops. 

Apart from his potential, the characteristic which defines Jean-Christophe it is his very futuristic vision of the alpinism... In 1996, he connects in less than four days Gasherbrum I and II (8068m and 8035m), in 2002 with the ascent of Annapurna he shows that it is possible to traverse fifteen kilometres on an edge during four days in the "thin air" between 7200 and 8000 meters, in December 2004, he carries out the first winter ascent of Shishapangma solo and in alpine style. The barriers which he makes fall make possible to imagine tomorrow’s ascents…

Makalu 8481m: Situation: Mahalangur Himal, Nepal oriental.27°53’ lat.N / 87°05’ long.E

Altitude: 8481m.

First Summit : May 15 1955  via north west edge by Jean Couzy and Lionel Terray (France).

Base Camp Altitude: 5400m.

Timing (forecast):

27 October to 27 November 2005: end of the preparation abroad

01.12.05: Nepal departure

30 January 2006: back to France.

Expedition follow-up: Katia Lafaille, in liaison regularly with Jean-Christophe, will put on line on their site www.jclafaille.com information in real time about Jean-Christophe’s progression. The largest site on mountain will translate into English and will put on line the official communiqués that Katia will send to them on www.everestnews.com  (American site)

Katia Lafaille. 

APPENDIX: WINTER in Himalaya: 

The major problem in the ascent of summits of more than 8000 meters in winter is mainly related to the cold large mixture + altitude. In a very simplistic way here is in two lines what happens: when one is in a state of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) blood thickens, blood circulation slow down, the risks of frostbite are then high in winter with temperatures even colder and shorter days this process is reinforced.

Wind is also very problematic because the solid mass undergoes almost every day the famous "Jet Stream" whose airliners use for fly which blow on average of 160/180km/h. When he climbed the Shishapangma, the wind at the top was 70 km/h. The temperature this day at the top was of -35°, by adding the speed of the wind (wind chill) it reached approximately - 60 °.

« Alpine » style and « Heavy » expeditions: The difference between the alpine style and heavy expeditions are as follows: Heavy expeditions install progressively with their progression on the mountain fixed cords on which the mountaineers rise with a handle car-blocking (called the jumar) during the rise and the descent like self-insurance. Besides the base camp, several other camps are installed on the mountain; an advanced base camp, a camp 1, camp 2, camp 3 and even sometimes a camp 4. This style of ascent does not require technical qualities of climbing and requires much material on the mountain.

The alpine style is at the opposite and requires technical qualities of climber because there are not fixed cords installed (except for the delicate passage of a crack for example or a short portion and very technique of a passage on the route) thus not safety as well on the rise as in the descent. In addition, there is possibly an advanced base camp but then there are not several camps installed on the mountain. The same camp moves with the climber and follows him according to his acclimatization. This technique leaves the mountain "clean" but is very committed, the most committed one in the Himalayas.

Thanks to:





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