History was made in the high mountains of Pakistan last week. While most climbers were focused on reaching the summit of K2 and Nanga Parbat, a few set their sites on a different 8000-meter peak. The lesser-known Gasherbrum II received some attention, with a few teams topping out on that mountain amdist good weather and favorable conditions.
Amongst those who reached the top was a Nepali alpinist by the name of Sanu Sherpa, who summited GII on Thursday, July 21. In doing so, he set an impressive new record by becoming the first person to climb all 14 of the 8000-meter mountains twice.
Making History on Gasherbrum II
The expedition to Gasherbrum II was organized and led by Sanu Sherpa’s trekking company Pioneer Adventure, for which he is one of the lead guides. Sanu climbed the mountain with Japanese alpinist Naoko Watanabe, who completed her 11th 8000-er with plans to climb Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I in the coming days.
At 8035-meters (26,362 ft.), GII is the 13th highest peak in the world. It is considered the safest and least technical of the 8000-meter mountains in the Karakoram. It is sometimes used as a mountain for an alpinist to train on and gain valuable skills for other more difficult peaks, including other Pakistani giants such as K2 and Nanga Parbat—both of are notoriously difficult.
After a successful summit push, during which the Pioneer Sherpa team installed the fixed ropes to the summit, Sanu and Watanabe descended safely. They both spent a few days recovering before moving on to their next objectives.
From Porter to Mountain Guide
Sanu Sherpa started his career working as porter in the Nepali Himalya. As a young man, he discovered that like other Sherpas, he had a knack for operating at high altitudes. Eventually he transitioned to a mountain guide, before launching his own company a few years back. Since then, Pioneer has focused on leading trekking groups in Nepal, as well as mountaineering expeditions on 8000- and 7000-meter mountains.
In an interview with Everest Chronicle Sanu says that he simply loves to climb and feels most at ease in the mountains. This led him to summit Everst on six occasions and complete the 8000-meter peaks for the first time in 2019. In doing so, he became just the third Nepali to achieve that goal behind Mingma Sherpa and Chhang Dawa Sherpa.
Adding his name to that list—which now includes a few more Nepali mountaineers—was an amazing feat. But consider this—he has summited all 14 of those mountains again over the past three years. That is equally impressive and would have been a speed record just a few years ago, if not for the efforts Nims Purja.
Twice as Nice
Heading into the spring of 2022, Sanu had three peaks that he needed to climb to achieve the record for climbing the 8000-ers twice. Those mountains included Kangchenjunga, Makalu, and GII. He managed to knock off the first two this past spring during the Himalayan climbing season and now he has completed Gasherbrum II as well.
Pioneer Adventure announced Sanu’s achievement on its Instagram account by saying: “Today, we write to hail the hero of the Nepalese mountaineering community. A tale of Sherpa that shall be sung and recorded in history as a persistent climber with great determination and diligence who pierced through the chilling wind of the mountains to make other fellow climbers’ dreams come true.”
That seems a fitting tribute for such an accomplishment. On the one hand, it is somewhat surprising that no one has done this before. But Sanu Sherpa deserves more attention and praise for achieving his goal. I suspect he will be joined in this exclusive club in the near future, most likely by other Sherpas who continue to lead the way on the world’s most difficult and challenging peaks.
Congrats to Sanu! Well done.
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