Situated on the northern slopes of the Chinese Himalayas, not far north of the border with Nepal, Shishapangma towers above the Tibetan Plateau.
China’s eighth tallest mountain (although, it is also the tallest mountain located solely within China’s borders) rises to 8,027 metres (26,335 ft) above sea level and has the distinction of being both the lowest of the 8,000ers and the last one to have been climbed.
Due to travel restrictions put in place by the Chinese government, multiple visas are needed to enter Tibet (one to enter China and a separate one for the autonomous region).
This makes travel to the peak quite difficult and oftentimes means climbers will combine an ascent of Shishapangma with sightseeing in Lhasa or an ascent of Cho Oyu or another mountain.
Quick Facts about Shishapangma
- Along with being the fourteenth highest mountain in the world, Shishapangma is also the eleventh most prominent, with an elevation change of 2,897 metres (9,505 feet) from bottom to top.
- In the native Tibetan dialect, Shishapangma reportedly means “the god of the grasslands”. The mountain is also known as Gosainthān, which in Sanskrit translates to “abode of God”.
- During ascents that take place at the very beginning and end of the post-monsoon (late summer/autumn) climbing season, it is possible to make a skiing or snowboarding descent from the summit of the peak back to the base of it.
History of Shishapangma
While Shishapangma has held spiritual importance for the people of Tibet for centuries, it was the last 8000er to be climbed.
Chinese restrictions on entering Tibet from the 1950s through the 1970s meant that keeping precise records on the first ascent of the peak was not easy. With several early ascents of the peak, it was unclear whether climbers had made it to the summit proper or stopped on a minor summit.
However, the first widely recognised successful expedition to the top of Shishapangma came in 1964. Climbing by the Northern Route, a Chinese expedition led by Xǔ Jìng arrived at the peak’s summit on May 2.
Experience Required for Climbing Shishapangma
While Shishapangma is widely considered to be one of the easier 8,000ers to climb, the peak still presents plenty of challenges.
Among the biggest of these are avalanches, which are not uncommon in the parts of the climbing season closest to the monsoon (late May and early September).
While the climbing itself is not overly technical – only an intermediate level of mixed snow and ice climbing is required on the easiest route – the altitude presents the biggest challenge for climbers heading to the summit.
As a result, most guides recommend participants have previous experience at 7,000 metres (23,000 feet) or more and spend three to six months training ahead of their planned ascent, with the aim of improving endurance, strength and flexibility.
Main Routes up Shishapangma
While there are about 10 different routes that lead up to the summit, the easiest and most commonly taken one is the normal route, which heads up to the top by the northwest face and north ridge.
The route requires intermediate snow and ice climbing, with the toughest part of the ascent coming in between the central and main summit when climbers must traverse an extremely exposed knife-edge ridge.
For more advanced climbers looking for a challenge, there are at least six routes that lead up the 1,800-metre (6,000-foot) south face. Climbing from this side of the peak requires much more advanced ice climbing abilities.
Other possible routes are the west ridge and east face.