Ski Descent Of Fourth Tallest Mountain On Earth

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A three-man Italian team will attempt the first complete ski descent of a coveted line high in the Himalayas this fall.

Skiers Edmond Joyeusaz and Federico Colli plan to climb and ski down Lhotse, the fourth tallest mountain in the world at 27,940 feet, with videographer Carlo Limonta in the Lhotse Ski Challenge Expedition.

According to their blog, they are currently acclimating with trips up to Camp 1 from Basecamp.

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Lhotse shares the same base camp as Mount Everest. Much of the route up Lhotse follows the Everest standard route. Partially due to the proximity to Everest, few climbers attempt Lhotse each year. It has never seen a successful ski descent.

Americans Jamie Laidlaw and Kris Erickson’s attempted first descent of Lhotse Peak in May 2011 failed after Laidlaw was stricken with high altitude pulmonary edema, a potentially fatal condition.

The route ascends and descends a thin, exposed couloir down the face of the mountain.

Team leader Edmond lives in Courmayeur at the foot of Mont Blanc. He is a veteran ski instructor and alpine guide with the Courmayeur Guides Society. A former member of the Italian ski team, he won the Italian Cup in 1984.

The team will need every bit of that experience for this climb and descent — slopes are expected to approach 55 degrees. Making things tougher, the expedition will eschew the use of fixed ropes and oxygen, apparently even climbing the treacherous Khumbu Icefall in alpine style to the chagrin of their Sherpa assistants.

(See more photos on page 2 of this post)

The expedition is supported at least in part by clothing partner Eider, who will provide technical equipment, jackets, pants, fleeces, and suits necessary to face intense cold conditions.

We will keep an eye on the Italian team as they attempt a line at an altitude that, just thinking about it, makes our lungs ache and legs quiver.

—Sean McCoy

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