Ski Descents from All the 8,000-Meter Peaks
By 1964, all 14 of the world’s highest peaks (those over 8,000 meters, or 26,2467 feet) had been successfully scaled. But it wasn’t until a couple decades later that adventurers began to consider the descent — when France’s Yves Morin donned skies, in 1979, on the summit of Annapurna. Since then, mountaineers have been attempting to ski 8,000-meter peaks with varying degrees of success. The key, at least for the record books, is to complete a “full descent,” skiing down the entire mountain without having to remove your skis to hike or down climb. The best example is Slovenian DavoKarnicar, who in 2,000 skied from Everest’s summit to basecamp, uninterrupted, in a time of 4 hours and 40 minutes. At of the time of this writing, a handful of 8,000-meter peaks remain un-skied (at least as full descents), including Pakistan’s K2, the world’s 2nd highest peak at 28,251 feet; Nepal’s Kangchenjunga, the 3rd highest at 28,169 feet; Nepal’s Lhoste, the 4th highest at 27,940, and Makalu, the 5th highest at 27,838 feet.
Makalu, whose summit is a four-sided pyramid, is arguably not suitable for a ski descent. But the others remain within the realm of possibility, at least in theory. Alpinist Matt Moniz has had his eye on skiing the Lhoste Couloir since last season, when the Everest avalanche forced him to abort both his Everest and Lhoste climbs (he settled for climbing Makalu and Cho Oyuinstead). Moniz will be back this season, in May, to attempt Everest, followed by Lhoste, and the grand finale — the ski descent. He’s under no delusion about the high risk of failure. “There’s about a 28 percent chance you’ll even reach Lhotse’s summit,” Moniz says. “Of course, combining it with Everest — a double summit — will halve your odds. Then the couloir needs to be filled in with snow, which is rare. But not too much, otherwise there are avalanche risks. If you’re lucky, like lottery lucky, and the conditions are right, better make sure the couloir is clear of climbers and your mind is sharp. That pretty much sums up 8000-meter skiing. What could go wrong?”
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