A group of four Americans have announced plans to try to ski the world’s 5th highest mountain, Lhotse which summits at 27,940-feet (8,516m) and is close to Mt Everest in the Himalayas. Parts of Lhotse, one of the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000m (26,247-feet), have been skied already, but no one has made the full top to bottom descent reports snow-forecast.
Squaw Valley, CA resident and CEO of Alpenglow Expeditions in Lake Tahoe Adrian Ballinger, who has already skied two 8,000m+ peaks (one of them twice), his longtime girlfriend and professional rock climber Emily Harrington and two other professional climbing athletes will leave the US on Aug 25 and spend Sept 1-10 before making their attempt between September 11th and October 10th.
The key objective of the group’s attempt is to ski a straight line called the “dream line” through the Lhotse Couloir which descends for 6,562 vertical feet of very steep “no-fall” terrain.
A number of ski mountaineers have tried the feat before with Jamie Laidlaw getting closest, skiing the bottom part from about 26,247-feet (8,000m), but the most challenging section of the 1,640-feet (500m) above remains unskied. Speaking about his latest attempt on Lhotse, Ballinger commented:
“The physical challenge will be huge of course. But the biggest challenge will come from the hazard of skiing a line this steep and exposed at altitude. Gauging avalanche conditions can also be very difficult on peaks this big.”
Ballinger has already made complete ski descents of Manaslu (the 8th tallest mountain in the world) and Cho Oyu (the 6th tallest mountain in the world) twice and believes this is the most successful ski descents of 8000m peaks of any American. He has also twice attempted to ski Makalu (the 4th tallest mountain in the world, Lhotse, and Everest but was unable to make complete descents due to the conditions. Harrington has also skied Cho Oyu and also attempted to ski Makalu (skied from approx 7900m).
Similar to the world’s second highest mountain, K2, which was finally successfully skied last month by Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel after several previous unsuccessful attempts, it is not only incredibly challenging to climb and then ski down Lhotse, but it is also rare for snow and weather conditions to both be favourable for an attempt.