The Swedish extreme skier Fredrik Ericsson is trying to become the first person to ski the three highest mountains in the world. His recent attempt on Kangchenjunga (8586m) with Norwegian extreme skier Jörgen Aamot was unfortunately unsuccessful but Ericsson remains undeterred as the pair were only thwarted by heavy snow.
'Kangch' lies on the border between Nepal and the Indian state Sikkim and was first climbed in 1955 by a British team that included Joe Brown and George Band. Since then, around 200 climbers have reached the summit. But so far no Swede or Norwegian has climbed to the summit and no one has skied off the summit of Kangchenjunga.
Fredrik and Jörgen spent three weeks in their base camp on the Yalung glacier at an altitude of 5100 meters. Over this period they acclimatised with reconnaissance climbs and skiing on Kangchenjunga. The pair were carrying skis on their back, had randonne boots on their feet and did not use supplemental oxygen. All these things stacked up against the pair, making their plans extremely impressive, but they remained optimistic until the bitter end, commenting just before they missed the summit:
“The mountain looks very good at moment. There is a lot of snow so if we can make it to the summit the chances are good that we will be able to ski all the way down to the snow level at 5500 metres. We are acclimatising well and are now ready to make our summit push.”
The pair were stopped short of the summit due to heavy snow, but their ski descent, which was to be the highlight of the two month expedition, went without incident:
"To make it down without getting avalanched we had to use all our experience and all the tricks in the book. There were some scary sections but mostly we could enjoy nice powder turns on one of the highest mountains in the world. I am disappointed that we didn't reach the summit but at the same time relieved that we made it down safely. We had a great experience in a beautiful environment and I will definitely return one day to make a new attempt on Kangchenjunga."
Ericsson is one of the world's leading high altitude skiers with ski descents on some of the highest mountains on earth, including; Peak Somoni, Shisha Pangma, Gasherbrum 2, Laila Peak and Dhaulagiri.
Fredrik explained his skiing aspirations:
“I have already skied on three of the 14 8000-metre peaks, but now the aim is towards the absolute highest. The project spans over three years and I will try to ski the three highest mountains in the world, [including] K2 (8612m) next summer and Mount Everest in the autumn of 2010.”
Mountain Guide and high altitude expert Kenton Cool summed up what Ericsson is about:
"I know Fredrik quite well and he is a sound lad. I think what he is doing is pretty good; low key, small teams, minimal spray, yet getting the shit done. He didn't get the summit on Kanch this season due to heavy snow, or Dhaulagiri last autumn, but he got very close - around 200 metres from the summit I think. He skied from high points on both. Fredrik normally has small teams, no O2 and little or no Sherpa support. I reckon he is a lot more 'Real' than many of the folk out there."