Wednesday, November 29, 2023
2023 News

Deaths on Shishapangma should not be in vain – Ralf Dujmovits


Ralf Dujmovits has offered his advice on how Mt Shishapangma could be climbed safer and stated that the 4 deaths on the 8,027m peak last week should ‘not be in vain’ and how the “mountaineering and expedition community should discuss and learn from this bitter event.”

Dujmovits is a highly experienced Himalayan climber, UIAGM Guide, and Mountain Guide instructor with the 14x 8,000m peaks to his name.

He used his Social Media to make this release;

Why it is almost never a good idea to attempt the normal, north-facing route on Shisha Pangma in the late post-monsoon (autumn) season:

“The deaths of four climbers on October 7th in the avalanche on Shisha Pangma (8,027 m) should not be in vain. We, the mountaineering and expedition community, should discuss and learn from this bitter event. I am not writing this to blame anybody – I only want to help climbers to better understand why it is almost never a good idea to attempt the normal, north-facing route on Shisha Pangma in the late post-monsoon (autumn) season.

🔴 In spring and autumn, there is usually a stable high pressure system over the Tibetan plateau which brings many days of good weather in a row.

🔴This high pressure system sucks in air at high altitudes. On Shisha Pangma‘s summit ridge this creates a relatively constant and strong flow of air from south to north.

🔴 This southerly air flow transports snow from the southern side of Shisha Pangma onto its north face.

🔴 While being transported, the six arms of many snow crystals break off and thus lose much of their ability to bind together. Continued wind can press the crystals together and form surface wind slabs which can form avalanches.

🔴 A second problem is that when it is very cold outside – like from the end of September onwards – moisture evaporates from inside the snowpack. This moisture condenses as it moves up through the snowpack and forms cup-like and angular snow crystals. This process results in snow that has the consistency of large grains of sugar – it is called faceted snow.

🔴 The gigantic slope above 7,300 m on Shisha Pangma’s north face is not steep enough to regularly avalanche naturally. However, when disturbed by the added weight of a climber or even through the vibrations of approaching climbers the faceted snow can collapse and, along with the hundreds of tons of snow on top of it, begin to slide.

🔴 The very cold temperatures of late autumn and the almost complete lack of sunshine on the slope preserve this particular avalanche danger in the snowpack – sometimes for weeks or months.

🔴 In spring, the longer, warmer days and the sunshine that hits the slope (even obliquely) help to bond the snow and significantly lower the avalanche danger. Of course, there are always exceptional weather conditions at any time of year, but generally speaking, Shisha Pangma is much safer to climb in April/ May than in September/October.

I climbed Shisha Pangma’s main summit twice: one time by the normal route and one time via the South Face. On another occasion, we turned back from Shisha Pangma’s central summit because the wind was too strong to stay on the safer ridge line and the avalanche conditions were not safe enough to make the traverse across the big slope to the main summit.”

Be sure to follow Ralf Dujmovits on Instagram here.