60 years ago: First ascent of Shishapangma

North side of Shishapangma
North side of Shishapangma

“A few steps more and we emerged on the very highest point of the mountain, a triangular ice-and-snow-covered piece of ground, about five square metres, commanding a panoramic view to the farthest horizon. A head wind hit us with full force.” This is how Hsu Ching (other spelling Xu Jing) , the leader of the Chinese expedition, described the moment exactly 60 years ago today when people first set foot on the summit of Shishapangma. It was 10.20 a.m. Beijing time on 2 May 1964 when the first of a total of ten climbers arrived at the highest point at 8,027 meters, reported Hsu.

This was the last of the 14 eight-thousanders to be climbed – 14 years after the first ascent of the first eight-thousander, Annapurna I, by the Frenchmen Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal. Shishapangma – translated as “crest above the grassy plains” – is the lowest eight-thousander and the only one that lies entirely on Chinese-Tibetan soil.

Tibet closed to foreigners at the time

The fact that the first ascent of the mountain took so long was due to the political circumstances. After China occupied Tibet in 1950, the region was closed to foreign climbers. The Chinese mountaineers initially turned to Mount Everest on behalf of the communist leadership. In 1960, the rulers in Beijing announced the first ascent of the Everest route via the Northeast Ridge by the two Chinese climbers Wang Fu-Chou and Chu Ying-Hua and the Tibetan Gongbu.

Wang was also part of the team that made the first ascent of Shishapangma. Expedition leader Hsu had joined the Everest team in 1960 too – as deputy leader.

Oxygen bottles “for the final assault”

It was a mammoth expedition that had come to Shishapangma with the aim of making the first ascent: 195 people – around 50 climbers as well as doctors, scientists and journalists who were to document the ascent for the state media. The Chinese built a truck track up to the base camp at around 5,000 meters. A small tent city was built there, with power supply, cinema tent, infirmary, radio and weather station.

Shishapangma, the only eight-thousander located entirely in Tibet

Eventually, the climbers brought tons of equipment up the mountain. They set up six high camps on the northeast side of the mountain, the penultimate one at 7,500 meters and the last one at around 7,700 meters. According to the expedition report, oxygen bottles were deposited in the two highest camps alongside food supplies, “for the final assault”, as it said.

Mao bust buried at the summit

The summit push by 13 climbers, who had been spared in advance, began on 25 April. Three climbers who had problems with the thin air stayed behind in the last camp on the summit day. Six Chinese and four Tibetans reached the highest point. On no other first ascent of an eight-thousander have so many people reached the summit. After taking photos and filming, the team led by expedition leader Hsu Ching buried a Chinese flag, a note with the date and names of the first climbers on the summit and a small bust of the Chinese ruler Mao Tse-tung in the snow.

Hardly any more permits

Only in 1979 was Shishapangma opened to foreign teams. Today, there are around 20 routes or variants on the mountain. However, most of the around 350 summit successes to date have been achieved via the route of the first climbers. In recent years, things have become quiet on the mountain. The Chinese-Tibetan authorities have only issued permits for Shishapangma very restrictively, if at all.

Last fall, they admitted several foreign teams. After the two US-Americans Gina Marie Rzucidlo and Anna Gutu and their Nepalese companions Tenjen Lama and Mingmar Sherpa died in two avalanches on the same day, they closed the mountain again, for safety reasons, it was said.

This spring – 60 years after the first ascent – permits for Shishapangma had also been promised. However, the authorities then announced that the mountain would once again remain closed to foreign teams.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_riaIcon_order in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 165

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_inhaIcon_order in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 166

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_mastodonIcon_order in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 177

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_mastodon_display in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 276

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_snapchat_display in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 285

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_reddit_display in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 282

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_fbmessenger_display in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 279

Notice: Undefined index: sfsi_tiktok_display in /home/www/wordpress/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 273

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)