82-Year Old Climber Misses Summit of Dhaulagiri for 12th Time

In the dictionary, under the word “perseverance”, there should be a photo of 82-year old Spanish climber Carlos Soria. If ever there was an example of a mountaineer who has exhibited extreme patience and persistence it is this man.

Recently, in an effort to achieve his goal of becoming the oldest person to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks, Soria returned to the Himalaya. The Spaniard had once again set his sights on reaching the summit of Dhaulagiri, a place that eluded him on 11 previous attempts. But poor weather conditions and deep snow denied him a chance of achieving that goal yet again.

Summit of Dhaulagiri
Photo Credit: Carlos Soria

A 30-Year Quest

Soria began his career as alpinist at the age of 14, first climbing peaks in his home country before later turning his attention to the classic mountains in the Alps. Eventually, he would find himself on some of the first Spanish teams to travel to the Himalaya and even Mt. Elbrus in Russia. Successive on the 8000-meter peaks was elusive however, with his first ascent not coming until 1990, when he reached the top of Nanga Parbat at the age of 50.

After that, Soria dedicated himself to climbing all of the 8000-meter peaks, something that relatively few climbers had achieved in the 1990s. Even today, just 44 people have achieved that goal, with the Spaniard looking to add his name to the list.

Currently, he has reached the top of 12 of those mountains. After Nanga Parbat, he went on to summit Gasherbrum II (1994), Cho Oyu (1999), Everest (2001), K2 (2004), Broad Peak (2007), Makalu (2008), Gasherbrum I (2009), Manaslu (2010), Lhotse (2011), Kangchenjunga (2014), and Annapurna in 2016. That leaves just Shishapangma and Dhaulagiri yet to be climbed.

Summit of Dhaulagiri
Photo Credit: Carlos Soria

Struggles on Dhaulagiri

Standing 8167 meters (26,795 ft.) in height, Dhaulagiri is the seventh highest mountain on the planet. First climbed in 1960, the Nepali peak is known for its snowcapped slopes and impressive prominence, rising 7000 meters (22,980 ft.) above the Kali Gandaki River below. In the early days of Himalayan expeditions it was considered a significant challenge to reach the summit of Dhaulagiri, but today it is typically seen as one of the more straightforward 8000-meter peaks.

That’s not much consolation for Soria, who has spent a considerable amount of time, money, and effort hoping to cover the mountain in recent years. His first attempt on Dhaulagiri came back in 1998, with further attempts sprinkled across the years ever since. Recently, he has been on the mountain in both the spring and fall climbing seasons hoping to get tis particular monkey off his back at long last.

Luck hasn’t exactly been in Soria’s favor. Bad weather and poor conditions have played their part in keeping him from the summit of Dhaulagiri. The pandemic prevented his attempt last year or course and there have been times when the mountain was deemed unsafe due to high probabilities of avalanches. On one occasion, his team even navigated up the wrong couloir, choosing a route that provided no access to the top.

No Summits in 2021

When Nepal reopened to foreign visitors in the spring, Carlos was one of the first to declare his intentions of returning. But poor weather conditions—brought on by two cyclones— and COVID outbreaks in base camp forced him to abandon his attempt. At the time, the virus was running rampant and he was forced to take a charter flight back to Spain or risk a prolonged lockdown in Kathmandu.

This fall, the spread of the virus is more under control and a handful of climbing teams returned once again. Soria was amongst those heading to Dhaulagiri, but deep snow made breaking trail very difficult and the danger of avalanches was high once again. Reluctantly, he has had to pull the plug once more and is now on his way back home.

Undoubtedly, we will see Carlos back in the Himalaya again next spring, when at the age of 83 he will make yet another attempt on the summit of Dhaulagiri. While it would be easy to give up after 12 failed expeditions, he seems as determined as ever to reach his goal. With two 8000-meter peaks left on his hit list, he isn’t ready to call it quits just yet.

Perseverance indeed.

Kraig Becker