ISLAMABAD: A Norwegian woman and her Nepali guide set the record Thursday for the fastest summit of all 14 of the world’s 8,000-m mountains, their team said in a statement. Kristin Harila and Tenjin “Lama” Sherpa completed the feat in three months and a day after summiting Pakistan’s K2, the last peak on their quest. “Kristin said it was a very hard climb because of the amount of snow. She is grateful and extremely happy to share the record with Lama,” Rigmor Berthier, from her press team, told AFP.
The record reflects “their unwavering determination, teamwork, and sheer tenacity throughout this monumental endeavor”, a statement from her team said. “Harila and Lama’s collaboration has showcased the essence of mountaineering unity, transcending borders and cultures to achieve greatness together.” The pair surpassed Nepal-born British adventurer Nirmal Purja’s record of six months and six days, set in 2019. Both records were achieved with the help of oxygen and helicopters, which has drawn some criticism from the climbing community.
Pakistan is home to five of the world’s 14 “super peaks”, and climbing them all is considered the ultimate achievement of any mountaineer. Besides being far more technically difficult to climb than Everest, K2 – Earth’s second-highest mountain — has notoriously fickle weather and has only been scaled by 425 people since 1954, including around 20 women. More than 40 people have summited the world’s top 14 peaks, but only a few of them women. Last year, despite her proven climbing prowess, 37-year-old Harila struggled to secure sponsors, forcing her to sell her apartment to fund her quest.
“I think to do this project if I was a man would be much easier,” she told AFP in an interview in May. “It is just different to be a woman in the world, not just with the sponsorships.” This year, though, Harila is backed by several firms — including a watch company and backpack manufacturer — for her new attempt. In her race to the record, Harila had to repeat the summit of 12 mountains, including K2, after delays in securing visas from China to climb Shishapangma — wholly in Tibet — and Cho Oyu, normally climbed from the Chinese side.
“My goal was to do it in less than six months,” she told AFP in the interview. “So when we didn’t get a permit last year I decided to do it all over again this year.” Harila is a native of Vadso, on the Barents Sea in Norway’s northernmost reaches, where the highest point is just 633 m. She did not take to climbing from an early age, dedicating herself to football, handball and cross-country skiing. It was only in 2015 when she won a trip to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania from her employers — a chain of furniture shops — that she discovered her passion.
Lama, who has been a guide since the age of 16, was Kristin’s companion throughout her record-breaking journey. “Lama’s invaluable expertise and profound connection with the mountains have been integral to their success in navigating treacherous terrains and facing harsh weather conditions,” the team statement said. Previous record holder Purja, who has a series of titles under his belt including the first winter ascent of K2 in 2021, is currently attempting the fastest ascent of the super peaks without supplemental oxygen. Twenty-one-year-old Pakistani mountaineer Shehroze Kashif also hopes this year to become the youngest person to tackle them all. – AFP
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