Petrifying moment in icy height

Together with Luka Lindič LOWA PRO Team athlete Ines Papert wants to climb her first 8000 meter mountain: The south face of the Shishapangma in alpine style, of course. But just a short time after the start of the whole expedition, the plan changes in a blink of an eye.

Ines Papert at her approach to Nyanang Ri

The Shishapangma south face is one of the hardest and toughest climbs for extream athletes, with steep and technically ambitious parts. Few teams attempt the Shishapangma from this difficult side. No wonder that Ines and Luka are the only mountaineers who try this in 2018.
With little help, both athletes reach the base camp at 5,300 meters on 17th April “From now on it was just us. No sherpa, no fixed ropes, no bottles of oxygen. We wanted to climb as a small close team”, Ines Papert explains.

 

Bivy in the crevasse

Before they can attempt the south face of the Shishapangma the two athletes had to get acclimatised. They choose the nearby Nyanang Ri (7071m) which is connected by a ridge to the Shishapangma. The entire equipment needed for the climb was transported to the mountain; the weather seemed to be stable. So they start their attempt to climb the mountain on 30th April. At 6,300 meters they reach their 2nd bivy, which they placed in the crevasse below the flank. Safe and sound, that how Ines recalls feeling. But continuous snowfall throughout the entire night would change the whole situation. The next morning, around 5 am, the LOWA PRO Team athlete remembers the flank begin to slip: an avalanche! “We were awoken from our sleep by the pounding sound of rolling snow. We immediately knew what was happening and understood the severity of the situation. While Luka dashed out of the tent via the entrance, I in panic, desperately ripped a hole in the tent. The air was already getting scarce and I could feel the heavy weight of the snow pressing against my already tense body. We'd better get out of here! Luka reached for me quickly pulled me out of the collapsing tent. Outside we stood in our socks and had to watch our tent getting buried under the deep snow. "At the last moment Luka saved our shoes”, Ines reports.

 

Snow decimated tent

In a small snow cave, they find shelter and wait for the weather to calm down. As soon as the situation allows it, Luka Lindič starts shovelling through the snow in a desperate search for their equipment – without it, they’re trapped. After two long hours, they’re able to pull it out of the snow and start with their long descent.

Later Ines recalls, “We were in shock for days but we decided to keep on going with our plans. We're climbers and mountaineers. The reason for continuing after such an experience isn't something that you can explain rationally. But how to go on without constantly panicking? After much discussion there was only one result: We stay, even though our goal for the expedition, the Shishapangma, had somehow moved further away”, Ines explains at a loss for words. Papert and Lindič won´t give the Nanyang RI another try: Now the new goal is the nearby Pungpa Ri.

 

Bad luck on their way to the top

But even the second goal, the top of the Pungpa Ri (7450m) doesn’t grant the two wary athletes success. Almost daily snowfall makes planning very complicated. Throughout a small but stable break in the weather in the middle of May – less snowfall but high winds and temperatures of -28 °C surrounding the peak were forecasted – the team left out the ABC and climbs up to 6,500 meters. The remaining 1,000 vertical meters to the top are planned for the next morning. But again, this plan doesn't work out either. Ines Paper doesn’t feel well, she couldn’t sleep the whole night not to mention that fact she was becoming malnutrashed. “As I was putting on my climbing harness I realised what little strength I had in my fingers. I asked myself how I could possibly make it up to the summit. Still, we climbed a bit higher. But I soon realised that I wouldn't make it. I had a terrible feeling of complete powerlessness”, she describes the past situation. For their own safety Papert and Lindič decide to end this ascent as well – the well experienced athletes don’t want to risk another moment like the one on Nyanang Ri.

The events at Nyanang Ri, the unstable weather conditions over the whole expedition and the fact that they weren´t well acclimatised, made the team Papert and Lindič, realise that they needed to end the expedition of their dream - for now.