More than 20 years after his last summit success on an eight-thousander, Marc Batard is going to give it another try. For this spring, the 69-year-old has set his sights on climbing Annapurna – via the so called “Dutch Rib” in the North Face, without bottled oxygen. Batard and his team reached the village of Tatopani yesterday on their way to the 8,091-meter Annapurna I in western Nepal.
“I am very happy to be back in an area I know well and to have the chance to present myself in good shape despite my age,” Marc writes me. Twice he tried unsuccessfully to scale Annapurna in the 1980s. Both times bad weather stopped him: in 1986 on the East Ridge at 7,100 meters, in 1989 in the South Face at 5,800 meters.
The Frenchman is accompanied by his Nepalese rope partner, eight-time Everest ascender Pasang Nuru Sherpa, French mountain guide Yorick Vion (who is planning a ski descent of Annapurna), filmmaker Bertrand Delapierre and Brazilian Deny de Almeida, who lives in France. With the Annapurna climb, Batard wants to continue preparing for his big goal: In spring of 2022, Marc is aiming for his third Everest ascent without breathing mask, via the Tibetan north side of the mountain – at the age of 70!
Mourning for Muhammed Ali Sadpara
In late July 2020, Batard cheated death when an aneurysm ruptured in his head. Five months later, his neurologist already gave the green light again for a trekking trip to K2 in Pakistan.
In January, in the base camp at the foot of the second highest mountain on earth, Marc met Muhammad Ali Sadpara, who along with Pasang Nuru was actually scheduled as the third member of the Everest team for 2022. But Pakistan’s most successful high altitude climber did not return from his summit attempt on K2 in early February. “I am very sad about the death of Ali, my friend Pasang Nuru Sherpa too,” Marc says. “We will think a lot about Ali Sadpara on Annapurna and next year we will continue the project with his son Sajid.”
To the top of Everest in 22.5 hours
Especially in the late 1980s, Marc Batard had made headlines in the Himalayas. At that time, he was nicknamed the “Sprinter”. He was the first person to climb Everest in less than 24 hours – without bottled oxygen. In September 1988 it took Marc only 22.5 hours to climb from the base camp on the south side of the mountain in Nepal to the highest point at 8,850 meters, which earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. At that time, he was at the zenith of his performance: Within less than ten months, he scaled four eight-thousanders, all without bottled oxygen.
Batard first succeeded in a winter ascent of Dhaulagiri in December 1987. In April 1988 he added the first traverse of Makalu: Marc climbed alone via the West Pillar to the summit and then down the normal route, the Northwest Ridge, to base camp. The ascent took him only 18 hours. In preparation for Everest, Batard scaled Cho Oyu in only 19 hours in early September 1988. After his record coup on Mount Everest, the 1.67-meter tall Frenchman weighed only 46 kilograms.
Marc had climbed his first eight-thousander, Gasherbrum II in Pakistan, already in 1975, opening a new route via the South Ridge. Aged 23, Batard was then the youngest climber ever to scale an eight-thousander without bottled oxygen. Marc climbed Mount Everest a total of eight times: six times on the Nepalese south side, twice on the Tibetan north side. He always did it without breathing mask. After 1988, he achieved a second Everest summit success in 1990. Later Batard withdrew completely from high-altitude climbing to devote himself to painting.
Climbing Aconcagua twice in three days
Now Marc is back and confident that he can succeed in his third attempt on Annapurna, despite his advanced age: “What makes me optimistic is that last year I scaled Aconcagua twice in three days, from base camp to the summit and back.” On the highest mountain in South America (6,982 meters), the “Sprinter” of yesteryear showed that he can still take the thin air well – and that he is fast.
P.S.: If Marc Batard succeeds on Mount Everest, he would then most likely be by far the oldest climber on the roof of the world without using a breathing mask. So far, this Everest record is held by the Italian Abele Blanc, who reached the highest point on earth in 2010 at the age of 55 years and 264 days.