Home > Expeditions & Adventures > ExWeb special on Everest: The autumn of the solo climbers

ExWeb special on Everest: The autumn of the solo climbers

Two climbers are currently aiming for the second solo climb of Everest after Messner’s (bagged in 1980): Spaniard Alberto Zerain via the Hornbein Couloir, and Japanese Nobukazu Kuriki by climbing up from Nepal. They’d better hurry up if they want to keep their goals untainted though, since further teams will soon be on their footsteps: a group of mountain guides from Courmayer on the Hornbein, and American Eric Larsen with a team of Sherpas on Nepal’s route.

Zerain: Positive thinking

Alberto Zerain is already on Everest north side. Loads of snow prevented Alberto Zerain expedition yaks to reach the usual ABC at 6,400 meters and, together with two mates accompanying him during the acclimatization process, have set up BC almost 1,000 vertical meters below.

“The key is to be able to turn a setback into a positive event,” Alberto explained. “From the place where we have been left by the porters, we could hardly have climbed Everest’s normal North Face route. On the contrary, we’re at a superb starting point to acclimatize in nearby peaks, some of which are well over 7,000 meters tall.”

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Zerain concluded. “We’re heading straight for Yangtse, right in front of us. It’s about 7,500 meters and will thus provide an adequate acclimatization point, plus great views of the Hornbein Couloir.”

Editor’s Note: Changtse, also known as Everest North Peak, is 7,580 meters.

Alberto is actually the sixth Spaniard aiming for the Hornbein couloir, a popular target among elite teams hoping to bag Everest in light style and far from the normal route; check background information at the end of the story for a list of previous Spanish attempts.

”Zerain is also the second climber, after Roger Marshall (1987), to try solo this immense and difficult route,” Rodrigo Granzotto points out. “On that occasion, the Canadian went so far as 7,710 meters, near the entrance of the Hornbein Couloir, but then retreated due to avalanches and deep snow.”

Not solo after all? Italians coming over

Alberto’s current climb might end up being not a “pure solo” climb (with no people, ropes or camps around both on the way up and on the descent): an Italian team has also revealed plans to climb the Hornbein.

Mountain guides from Aosta valley Edmond Joyeusaz, Gianluca Marra and Francesco Civra Dano will set off towards Tibet next week. After reaching the summit in alpine style, the men also hope to descent on skis.

On an environmentally-friendly note the team ensures that, once their own climb is done, they’ll retrieve all fixed ropes from the route up, and walk to the normal north route BC in order to clean garbage from the way.

Kuriki on Messner’s footsteps…

Meanwhile on the south side, Japanese Nbukazu Kuriki also hopes to get the second solo ascent of Everest (Zerain permitting) after Messner’s at only 28 years old.

He will count on a Sherpa who will stop in BC, sources told Mainichi News. It is unclear though, whether Kuriki will use supplementary oxygen or not.

The climber is leaving home in Hokkaido Prefecture for Nepal next Saturday. This is Nobukazu’s second attempt on Everest, after a first shot from the north side in spring last year. It’s also the last stage with his “Seven Summit” quest.

…and Eric Larsen after Kuriki’s

Just like in Zerain’s case though, the Japanese solo climber might not be as lonely as he expected. On a quest to step on the world’s so-called “Three Poles” record within one year. American Eric Larsen is also heading for Everest and climbing the normal route from Nepal. Eric will use bottled oxygen and a small team of Sherpas as support.

While Nobukazu reportedly aims for a summit by the end of September, Eric calculates he may be ready for a summit push sometime in October. However, both climbers are flying to Nepal next Saturday, and probably will reach BC on time.

Previous Spanish attempts on the Hornbein Couloir, listed by Rodrigo Granzotto based on Himalaya Database files:

1987: Leaders: Antonio Ramos Villar and Luis Barcelas with Pierre Beghin and Fernando Garrido, among others (they reached up to 8,700 meters)

1995: Leader: Albert Castellet, with Manel de la Matta, Ferran Latorre and Araceli Segarra, among others (they reached up to 6,600 meters)

1998: Leader: Joseba Mendiola and others (they reached up to 7,500 meters)

2006: First attempt of Alberto Iñurrategi with Ferran Latorre and Juan Vallejo (they reached up to 8,500 meters)

2009: Second attempt of Alberto Iñurrategi, with Mikel Zabalza and Juan Vallejo (they reached up to 7,500 meters)

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