Shishapangma is the world’s 14th highest mountain and the last on the list of eight-thousanders. It was the last of these to be climbed, due more to the political isolation of Tibet than its technical challenge.
Name: Shishapangma / Shisha Pangma
Other names: Gāosēngzàn Feng (Chinese Mandarin), Xixabangma (Tibetan), Shishāpāngmā or Gosaitan (Nepalese),
Height: 8,027 m (26,335 ft)
Location: Part of the Jugal/Langtag Himal in the Himalayas, in southern Tibet.
First Climbed: 2 May 1964 by Xu Jing and his Chinese expedition team.
Climb Time: 26-30 days (from Base Camp).
Best Time to Climb: April-June
Shishapangma lies within Chinese Tibet in the northern Himalayas. As with all peaks located in Tibet, including the north face of Everest, Shishapangma was inaccessible to western climbers for much of the early expedition period. From the 1980s onwards, however, Tibet has become steadily, though not consistently, more open to foreign climbers.
It’s parent peak is the mighty Cho Oyu (8,188 m (26,864 ft) the world’s 6th highest peak, yet Shishapangma stands relatively isolated to the north of the Himalayan Range. One of its subsidiary peaks also tops 8,000 m – Shisha Pangma Central Peak, standing at 8,008 m (26,723 ft).
Its name translates as ‘crest above a grassy plain’ in Tibetan, and ‘bad weather’ in Chinese. Those who have climbed it attest to the truth of both. The Nepalese translates as ‘ the Holy place’, which is perhaps a little more inspiring.
Shishapangma is not only the lowest of the eight-thousanders, it is also considered one of the easiest to climb.
Yet while there have been regular climbs of both the main and central summits since 1980, often fewer than ten successful summits are completed each year. The majority stop at central peak, as the hour-long climb to the main summit follows a knife-edge ridge with unstable snow. As such, time of year is very important to reducing risk.
The Normal Route climbs the North-west Face and North Ridge. While no walk-up, it poses fewer technical challenges than many other eight-thousander standard routes. The ridge line mentioned above is by far its greatest challenge. There are several other routes that follow the West Ridge and East Face too, though these are far less walked.
The more challenging option is the near vertical, towering challenge of the South Face. Approximately 2,000 m (6,560 ft) of alpine climbing up a near vertical wall, there are six known routes. It was first climbed over three days by a British expedition who reached the summit on 28 May 1982.
The fastest ascent of the South Face was completed by Ueli Steck in 2011. On 18 April, he soloed up the south face from advanced base camp and returned in a little over ten hours.
Up to 2016, 29 people have died climbing these slopes, mainly through avalanches and falls. This included respected American Alex Lowe and his cameraman in 1999.
Trekking around Shishapangma.
While not as well developed as the Himalayan tourism in the south, there are a number of notable treks around Shishapangma.
The best known is the eight-day trek to Shishapangma base camp trek. While some guides will offer this as a straight base camp return, preferably find one that offers a route via Kong Tso. This route will loop around to the beautiful Kong Tso lake (5,030 m/ 16,503 ft), offering more of the Tibetan scenery to enjoy on your trip. It is considered a strenuous trek, though not technically demanding.
As with all such treks in the area, going with local tour guides is advised (many offer trips from Kathmandu). The red tape and local negotiations can make any unguided trip problematic.