Exactly 68 years ago, Kangchenjunga (8,586m) was conquered for the first time. Today, a group of climbers reached the summit coincidentally, marking a unique anniversary celebration.
The team of Western climbers consisted of Adrian Laza from Romania, Vadim Druelle from France, Vibeke Sefland from Norway, He Jing from China, Waldemar Kowalewski from Poland, Flor Cuenca from Peru, and Luis Stitzinger from Germany. They were accompanied by their Nepali guides, Pemba Sherpa, Nuri Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Chhiring Bhote, and Ang Tenji Sherpa.
Notably, some members of the team had previously conquered 8,000m peaks without the use of bottled oxygen. While it is unclear how many chose the same approach for Kangchenjunga, Vadim Druelle, a ski mountaineering guide, confirmed that he was among them. He also accomplished the remarkable feat of climbing non-stop from Base Camp to the summit in just 22 hours.
In a photograph, Druelle can be seen kneeling behind a banner displaying his expedition, set against a snowy backdrop. Prior to this achievement, Druelle had been at Kangchenjunga’s Base Camp a few days earlier, as captured in a photo shared on his Instagram.
This team, supported by Seven Summit Treks, became the second group to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga this season. The first successful ascent was accomplished by Kristin Harila and her guides the previous weekend.
Interestingly, some of today’s summiters had also been part of Harila’s team. However, they had to turn back when they unintentionally followed the wrong couloir while ascending with the rope-fixing team. On the other hand, Harila and her guides separated from the larger group and ascended via the correct route.
Several members of today’s summit group had recently arrived at Base Camp, mere days before the successful climb. This includes Flor Cuenca, who had previously summited Annapurna and Dhaulagiri alongside Chhepal Sherpa and Vibeke Sefland during this season.
Most team members boasted significant prior experience in high-altitude climbing. Kangchenjunga marked Flor Cuenca’s sixth conquest of an 8,000m peak without the use of supplemental oxygen. Stitzinger had climbed nine such peaks without oxygen, including a North Side ascent of Everest in 2015, and had also undertaken impressive ski descents.
Unfortunately, some members of the team couldn’t reach Base Camp in time to participate in this week’s summit push. Grace Tseng had to abandon her Everest attempt just the day before and hopes to ascend Kangchenjunga before the season concludes.