Kristin Harila Continues Pursuit of 8000-Meter Speed Record

A few weeks back, we told you about Norweigan climber Kristin Harila and her attempt to break Nims Purja’s speed record for climbing all 14 8000-meter peaks. At the time, Harila was coming off of a very successful spring climbing season in Nepal, during which she summited six of the world’s highest mountains in just 29 days.

When we wrote about her efforts, Kristin had arrived in Pakistan and was already continuing the pursuit of her goals. In fact, as of early July she had already nabbed her seventh eight-thousander by topping out on Nanga Parbat. Fast forward a month and she now stands on the edge of making history, although before she can do that, she faces some logistical challenges that may prove impossible to overcome.

kristin harila
Photo Credit: Kristin Harila

Mission Accomplished in Pakistan

When last we checked in with Kristin Harila, she was in base camp on K2, the second highest mountain in the world. At the time, she was waiting for an opportunity to go up that peak’s highly technical slopes, but the fixed ropes hadn’t been put into place yet. It took a few more weeks for everything to come together, but when it did it resulted in a record-breaking summer on the “Savage Mountain.” Harila was a part of that rush, completing her attempt on July 22.

With arguably the most difficult of the 8000-meter peaks behind her, Harila immediately moved from K2 to Broad Peak, successfully summiting that mountain on July 28. She followed that up with two more summits, knocking off Gasherbrum II and I on August 8 and 11, respectively.

Now, Kristin will head home to Norway before returning to the Himalaya this fall. She’ll take a well-earned break while she gears up for the final push on the three remaining 8000-meter peaks. As of now, she has managed to climb 11 of those mountains in a span of 106 days. That keeps her on pace to potentially break Nims’s record, but she will need some help—and some luck—to actually achieve that goal.

Back to Nepal

After a brief rest back home, Kristin will return to Nepal for the post-monsoon climbing season this fall. Usually, that begins in late August or early September, depending on when the seasonal storms subside. First on her list will be climbing Manaslu, an 8163 meter (26,781 ft) mountain whose true summit has eluded many mountaineers, including Purja. The mountain has a “false” summit located at a slightly lower altitude, with its “true” top only accessible along a narrow and dangerous ridge. Harila will know this ahead of time, however, and will do everything she can to limit the risk and still top out at the proper point.

After that, she’ll have just two mountains left—Shishapangma and Cho Oyu. Neither of those peaks are as technically challenging as the mountains she has already climbed, but she may not even get a chance to step foot on either of their slopes. That’s because those two mountains sit within Tibet, which falls under Chinese rule. As a result, both of the peaks have been closed for the past two years due to COVID concerns, and it will take a minor miracle for Kristin Harila to get permission to climb them.

Nims faced a similar challenge back in 2019, although COIVD wasn’t part of the equation then. China has been limiting access to Shishapangma for years, and for a time, it appeared that he wouldn’t be able to get permission to attempt that peak. Thankfully, the Nepali government was able to assist in obtaining the permits he needed so he could knock off that final challenge. Now, just three years later, someone else is trying to break his record.

For now, we’ll just have to wait to see if Harila will get her opportunity to attempt Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. Hopefully—like Nims—she has some diplomats from back home that are helping to cut through the red tape. We’ll certainly be continuing to watch her progress in the weeks to come, and keep our fingers crossed she at least gets to give it a go.

Stay tuned!

Kraig Becker