Norwegian eyeing climbing record awaits Chinese permit

·3-min read

Norwegian climber Kristin Harila is only three peaks away from achieving the lung-busting feat of scaling the world's 14 highest mountains in record time.

But another obstacle stands in her way: getting a pass from the Chinese authorities to visit the region of Tibet and conquer the summits of Shishapangma and Cho Oyu.

Having already climbed 11 of Earth's 14 peaks above 8,000 metres (26,247 feet) since April 28, including Mount Everest, Annapurna and K2, Harila must scale Shishapangma, Cho Oyu and Manaslu in Nepal before November 4 to make history.

Nepalese man Nirmal Purja holds the current record after completing the 14 dizzying climbs in six months and six days in 2019.

Chinese authorisation will be the "decisive" factor in completing the final stage of her epic quest on time, she told AFP in Oslo after spending two weeks resting in her homeland.

China has rarely issued climbing permits in Tibet in recent years and all but sealed its borders during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harila, 36, reckons she can complete the set of so-called "super peaks" by mid-October in the best-case scenario, making a total of five-and-a-half months.

Manaslu should pose no problem as the summit is in Nepal. Cho Oyu can in theory be climbed from the Himalayan country, although no one has undertaken that route to reach the top.

But the Shishapangma ascent requires Chinese approval and Harila's first application was rejected a few weeks ago "as expected", she said.

If the authorities continue to refuse, it would sound the death knell for Harila's mission, but she remains optimistic about obtaining the coveted pass.

Doing 13 peaks and not having the authorisation for the last one would be "horrible", she said.

"But I'm not thinking about it too much for the moment. It's important to focus on one summit at a time."

- 'Triple Crown' ambitions -

Harila will head to Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Thursday and set her sights on tackling Manaslu between September 20-25.

"You have to respect each mountain, the weather, the conditions of the day, not take things lightly. If you don't manage to reach the top, you go back down and try again," she said.

Harila, a native of Vadso in Norway's far north where the highest point is 633 metres, did not take to climbing from an early age, dedicating herself to football, handball and cross-country skiing.

It was only in 2015 that she achieved her first noteworthy climb -- Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

When tackling Everest in 2021, the young Norwegian left her sherpa Pasdawa trailing in her wake, and her climbing prowess outshone her other guide, Dawa Ongju, on K2 this year.

She said every conquered summit brings fresh joy that she savours by unfurling the flags of Norway and the indigenous Sami people.

"When you're at the top, you've only covered half of the way. Climbing is often hard because you've got less and less oxygen, but going down is often equally difficult," she added.

After attempting to complete the world's 14 tallest mountains, Harila intends to keep going. She's thinking of attempting the "Triple Crown" of Everest and two neighbouring peaks, Lhotse and Nuptse, in a single season -- "maybe without (extra) oxygen".

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