In May 2021, an article in The New York Times asked the question: “What is a summit?”
The piece was one of the first in the mainstream media to discuss concerns raised by mountain chronicler Eberhard Jurgalski, who maintains the 8000ers.com website and is GWR’s primary consultant for mountaineering superlatives.
Jurgalski and his team have spent the last 10 years re-investigating ascents of the 14 mountains over 8,000 m (26,247 ft).
Their conclusion is that, with a number of peaks (particularly Annapurna I, Dhaulagiri I and Manaslu), the “true summits” had not been correctly identified for many years. This means that many climbers – usually through no fault of their own – had stopped before reaching the summit
For any mountain climb to qualify for a record, it must now meet two key criteria:
- The highest reachable point – aka the “true summit” – must be attained and proved.
- Ascents must be made on foot, from base camp to the top and then back again; consideration will be given to helicopter descents from higher camps for medical emergencies, and to adventure-sport descents made by ski, snowboard and non-motorized winged craft such as paragliders.
As of February 2023, all relevant records affected by this new research have been archived as “legacy” climbs. The official statement released by 8000ers.com can be read below.
Following these new guidelines, the first “true summit” ascent of all 8,000ers was that made by Edmund “Ed” Viesturs (USA), who climbed between 18 May 1989 and 12 May 2005. Notably, Viesturs climbed without the use of supplementary oxygen.
Viesturs’ time of 15 years 359 days remained the fastest true-summit ascent of the 8,000ers until it was broken by Nirmal “Nims” Purja in 2021. (Viesturs' record is still the fastest without supplementary oxygen.) Nims made his true ascents between 23 April 2019 and 8 October 2021 – a time of 2 years 168 days. Bottled oxygen was used.
Note: It was announced in 2019 that Nims had broken the 8,000er speed record with a time of 189 days (6 months 6 days), but two of his climbs were later discounted owing to the reclassification of the mountains. In order to secure the record, Nims returned to Dhaulagiri and Manaslu, successfully making true-summit ascents of both.
The first true-summit ascent of all 8,000ers by a woman (with bottled oxygen) was made by Chinese mountaineer Dong Hong-Juan, thanks to her successful climb of Shisha Pangma on 26 April 2023. She started her 8,000er odyssey on 19 May 2013 with an ascent of Everest – a total elapsed time of 9 years 342 days.
A week after Dong’s climb, on 3 May, Norway’s Kristin Harila broke Nims’ absolute record for the fastest true-summit ascent of the 8,000ers when she reached the top of Cho Oyu, finishing her sweep of all 14 mountains in 1 year 5 days (with bottled oxygen).
Harila had been aiming to climb every mountain in under six months but was forced to postpone the climbing of her final two (Shisha Pangma and Cho Oyu) owing to delays in the issuing of permits.
Dissatisfied with her world record time of over one year, Harila returned to the previously climbed mountains and finished them all by 27 July 2023 – an astonishing time of just 92 days. She was accompanied throughout all 14 ascents by male climber Tenjen Lama Sherpa (Nepal), who shares the record.
Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief of Guinness World Records, said: “The Guinness World Records titles affected by this reclassification of ‘true summits’ have necessarily had to be reset in order to reflect the base-camp-to-summit requirements. This should in no way detract from the incredible pioneering achievements made by some of the most significant mountaineers over the past 50 years; however, in the same way that we require marathon runners to finish the full 42.195-km (26.219-mile) course and circumnavigators to cover at least the 40,075-km (24,900-mile) circumference of the Earth, for a mountain climb to qualify for a Guinness World Records title, we must insist on a base-camp-to-true-summit ascent, as per the updated 8000ers.com guidelines.”
This new position is reflected in the records selected for the recently released Guinness World Records 2024 edition, and full-scale review of the online records database is now underway.
- First true-summit ascent of all 8,000ers: Ed Viesturs (USA), 18 May 1989–12 May 2005
- First true-summit ascent of all 8,000ers without supplementary oxygen: Ed Viesturs (USA), 18 May 1989–12 May 2005
- Fastest true-summit ascent of all 8,000ers without supplementary oxygen: 15 years 359 days by Ed Viesturs (USA), 18 May 1989–12 May 2005
- First true-summit ascent of all 8,000ers by a woman: Dong Hong-Juan (China), 19 May 2013–26 April 2023
- Fastest true-summit ascent of all 8,000ers: 92 days by Kristin Harila (Norway, female) and Tenjen Lama Sherpa (Nepal, male), 26 April–27 July 2023
- First and Fastest true-summit ascent of all 8,000ers without supplementary oxygen by a woman: No records
OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM 8000ers.com
A table listing information about new routes, winter ascents and the use of supplementary oxygen on the 14 mountains over a height of 8,000 m (26,246 ft) – the “8000ers” – was compiled more than 20 years ago.
In 2008, it was published on the website 8000ers.com, and a link to it was included on all Wikipedia sites concerning the 8000ers.
Later, in 2012, it was presented – and copyrighted – in the book Herausforderung 8000er, alongside dozens of other informative tables and route photographs.There then followed 10 years of intensive research, during which time many of the published ascents were found to have stopped up to 190 m horizontal distance from the true summits of the mountains, especially on the lower 8000ers Annapurna I, Dhaulagiri I and Manaslu.
It was therefore necessary to update the table with the new findings.
Certain members of the climbing community chose to ignore these revelations, while others accepted the integrity of the research and corrected their wrong summits.
The correcting of mis-climbed mountains began in 2019 after the publication of the summit areas on Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri I, and after 2021 following the publication of drone photographs on Manaslu by Mr Jackson Groves.
The Manaslu errors had already been listed in the updated table in 2019 but the facts were much more compelling and convincing when accompanied by Mr Groves’ incontestable photographs. As a result, last post-monsoon, more than 100 climbers attempted to correct their former wrong summits, and 60 of them were successful. See tables of corrections below.
The table of new findings was finally published in 2022.
In 2002, the so-called “Tyrolean Declaration" of the UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) was published. Section 9.9 states:
When reporting first ascents, it is important to report the details as accurately as possible. A climber’s honesty and integrity will be assumed unless there is compromising evidence. -8000ers.com
As is made clear in the Declaration, it is very important that the same ethical principles also apply to new routes, and to climbers who collect summits of high mountains such as the Alps 4000ers, the Andean 6000ers or the 8000ers.
As many records are now claimed, the guidelines must necessarily evolve towards a new competition era of extreme sports.
The rules below should be checked by the UIAA, so that they could at least provide some feedback and even hopefully back it.
Rules for mountaineering world records, summit collectors and any ‘firsts’:
Only the highest reachable point, the “Main Summit”, counts as an ascent of the mountain.
All older, previously accepted records – including incorrect finish points – are no longer valid.
For the 14 8K collectors, the Pre-Research Table exists with all details as of 2017 is to be considered a Historic Recognition Table. Other records after 2017 are only accepted with true summits. For example, Nirmal Purja’s 2019 record of 6 months 6 days for all the 14 8K changes to 2 years 5 months 15 days, after he corrected in 2021 his false summits of Manaslu and Dhaulagiri I.
A clean ascent means on foot from base camp (BC) to the top and back. Exceptions may be made for life-saving rescues from higher Camps down to BC using a helicopter; and for adventure-sport descents made by non-motorized winged craft such as paragliders. For example, the claimed record for the fastest summits of “The Higher Five” from Pasdawa Sherpa is invalid, because a helicopter was used on Kangchenjunga to ascend from BC to Camp 2.
The record applicants should give all possible details to confirm their achievements.
EXPEDITION STYLES ON 8,000M MOUNTAINS
Note that these various styles of ascent can overlap:
Traditional Siege Style
- Large teams of foreign climbers with local support (high altitude workers).
- Both foreign climbers and high-altitude workers carry loads and establish a succession of camps. Fixed rope and (generally) oxygen. Can be logistically complex. Examples: Most 8000er first ascents.
Lightweight Siege Style
- A small party (four or less?) of foreign climbers and similarly fewer high-altitude workers.
- Far less logistically complex but most other of above criteria apply.
- Example: First ascent of Broad Peak and Cho Oyu, where rope fixing was minimal.
- Small party (two–four, doing more with less).
- Expedition walks in and out from roadhead. No high-altitude workers. No fixed rope or oxygen.
- Aims to progress upwards towards the summit in a continuous fashion before returning to lower camps/base camp.
- Needs to define start point. Today, very difficult to make a true alpine-style ascent on a standard route. Examples: Swiss Route on the entire East Ridge of Annapurna.
Commercially organised Style
- Until recently, most expeditions walked in and out from roadhead. Logistics and infrastructure provided by a third party or agency, making the expedition more of a “package holiday”. While in the categories above, team members will generally be a group of friends, for a commercially organised expedition, it is likely that individual members will not know each other previously.
- Camps and fixed ropes most likely established by high altitude workers, who will generally carry any necessary oxygen for the “client”.
- Almost always confined to normal routes. Today, this is by far the most popular way to climb an 8,000er. Examples: Everest, Manaslu normal routes.
Logistically Unlimited Style
- As above but with a trend to use all artificial assistance.
- Increasing use of helicopters to access and exit base camp.
- Linked ascents of 8,000m peaks, with examples of camps and fixed rope already installed before foreign participants/collectors arrive at base camp. Maintains acclimatization and minimises lowland-related illnesses between ascents.
- Due to the great expense, this is normally practiced by highly sponsored or very rich mountaineers.
- Examples: Nimal Purja and Kristin Harila’s speed climbs
In addition to compiling tables for 8000ers.com, the authors advise Guinness World Records Ltd on the acknowledgement of a limited number of the more absolute 8000er ascents for their website and annual book of records:
- All significant records on the highest 8000ers, namely Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu. Titles include First, First two, First three, First five and mixed top-five records.
- Exceptions may be made for certain superlatives achieved on the Lower 8000ers: first to true summits for individuals and nations, for example, or on collection of the five Pakistani 8000ers.
- All family records are considered, such as Most siblings to climb Everest, First mother and son to climb, etc.
- Categories can be qualified as firsts, fastest, youngest, oldest, with O2 and without O2.
Links to all relevant PDFs (via 8000ers.com)
- 14 8K HR table (before research results)
- Annapurna I summit area
- Dhaulagiri I summit area
- Manaslu summit area
- New 14 8K table (after research results)
- New 14 8K table Nations
- New women collectors table 3+
- New women 14 8 K table Nations
- Examples of verifications for significant wrong finish points
- Broad Peak summit area
- Lhotse summit area
- Makalu summit area
- Kangchenjunga summit area
- Manaslu members corrections
- Manaslu nations corrections
- Manaslu nations corrections (women)
- Major firsts