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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Makalu Solo in Winter

It's fantastic to see Jean Christophe Lafaille headed to Makalu to attempt its first winter ascent, and even more exciting to see him try it as a true solo, without teammates, Sherpas, or even basecamp support beyond a single cook. Makalu has been soloed several times, but it's increasingly difficult to find yourself alone on any 8,000-meter peak these days. By going in winter and eschewing any support on the mountain, Lafaille is playing the game at its highest level. He soloed Shishapangma in similar style last year but summited on December 11, before the start of calendar winter, and then made the mistake of claiming the peak's first winter ascent, a claim most observers disputed. (An Italian-Polish duo then made a calendar-winter ascent of Shishapangma in January.) Lafaille will put his experience on Shish to good use on the world's fifth-highest peak, and he has scheduled his attempt so it will take place after December 21. One must wish him, "Bon voyage et bonne chance!"

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