ExWeb continues to try to get to the bottom of the Second Step Controversy, this time publishing comments from Miss Elizabeth Hawley herself. As most of you know, Miss Hawley is the very respected historian and keeper of Himalayan climbing records. She publishes a database of climbs that is considered the definitive record of who summitted the Himalayan peaks no only in Nepal, but beyond. She’s been living in Kathmandu for nearly 50 years, and she personally meets with as many climbers as possible to discuss their climbs.
Last week, when the Altitude Everest Team summitted the mountain, they also claimed to be the first team to free climb the Second Step, despite the fact that other climbers (Oscar Cadiach, Theo Fritsche) have also laid claim to the feat. To further muddy the waters, Miss Hawley released a statement that was picked up by Reuters that said that the Altitude Everest climb was the first to successfully free climb the Second Step since a Chinese team did it back in 1960. Presumably, this would be the first team to go up on the North side.
So, who really is the first? The climbing community has been scratching their heads at these conflicting reports, but ExWeb has been working hard to get to the bottom of the story, and contacted Miss Hawley for her thoughts, and she doesn’t pull any punches. In the interview, she says that she has just spoken with Shambu Tamang, who was with Oscar Cadiach back in 1985, and he claims that the team did indeed use the ladder and fixed ropes at the Second Step. Shambu even adds that they fixed the ladder, as they were climbing in August during the Monsoon season. She further goes on to state that she assumed that Fritshe and the other teams that have gone up, have used the ropes and ladder as well, as she hasn’t been told otherwise.
This kind of gels with what John Harlin of the American Alpine Journal stated yesterday as well, that the AAJ’s report on Cadiach’s climb made no mention of free climbing the Second Step, and only that he had to “overcome” that section of the mountain.
So, is this another case of a mountaineer exaggerating his exploits on the mountain? I’m not sure why Cadiach would feel the need to do so, as he is an experienced and respected climber with plenty of peaks under his belt. Or is it simply a case of misunderstanding? It would seem that Shambu Tamang’s comments cast serious doubt over Cadiach’s claims though. The topic isn’t completely closed yet either, as we’re expecting to hear from climber and historian Jochen Hemmleb, who I’m sure will have some interesting comments as well.
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