In 1990, a 61 year-old Spaniard reached the summit of his first 8,000m mountain, Nanga Parbat. At the age that most mountaineers would be finishing their mountaineering career and publishing their autobiography, Carlos Soria – 17 years after forming part of Spain’s first Himalayan expedition team – was beginning his bid to climb all of the world’s 8,000m mountains. 26 years on, as a 77 year-old, he continues his remarkable bid today.
To date, 35 people have summited all 14 of the world’s 8,000m mountains and the feat – still pursued by many – remains admirable and impressive. However after Messner summited Lhotse in 1986 and affirmed himself as the first to reach this mountaineering milestone, there has been little glory for those who have done so 2nd, 3rd, or 35th subsequently after him.
An abundance of alternative means of collecting the world’s highest mountains continue to emerge instead, with Alpinists attempting to claim a slice of mountaineering history by being the first to climb without oxygen, in winter, by opening new routes, new faces, ascending first a 7,000er, climbing the second highest mountain on each continent, and so on.
But Carlos Soria’s continued assault on the world’s highest mountains is remarkable and should he achieve his long-standing target of 14 x 8,000m mountains it will surely affirm him as a great of Alpinism, adding to his already impressive list of mountaineering achievements. The 77 year-old has only Annapurna and Dhaulagiri remaining on his list of 8,000ers (and arguably Shishapangma too) and following his ascent of Kangchenjunga two years ago, he aims to climb the remaining two 8,000ers back to back this season.
Soria Attempts Annapurna and Dhaulagiri in 2016
Soria and his expedition team are currently preparing at Annapurna Base Camp, awaiting a good weather window in which a summit bid can be launched. The route and camps have been prepared and with limited snowfall and promising conditions on the mountain, only strong winds are delaying a push to the summit. However Annapurna has defeated Soria the last three years and the mountain’s notoriously avalanche prone slopes pose an ever present threat, although it’s summit was one of the few to be reached amongst the 8,000ers last year and several teams are also preparing a bid this season.
Dhaulagiri would follow a successful summit bid for Soria, wrapping up his remarkable bid to summit all 14 8,000m mountains, although disputably Shishapangma would still remain a necessary target. On a past expedition Soria reached the 8,008m central summit of Shishapangma, 19m short of the challenging main summit, which also eluded him in an effort to claim it in 2014.
Breaking New Ground?
Completing the 14 x 8,000m challenge would only add to Soria’s already impressive mountaineering CV. In 2010, aged 71, Soria ascended Mount Kilimanjaro to complete the 7 summits – climbing the highest mountain on all 7 continents – and is also the oldest person to summit K2, Broad Peak, Makalu, Manaslu, Lhotse and Kangchenjunga, the only man to have climbed 10 8,000ers aged over 60 and was the first to ascend Dome Khang (7,260m) in India.
However Soria is not the oldest man to summit an 8,000er. Yuichiro Miura summited Everest in 2013 as an 80 year-old, a record which was challenged unsuccessfully the same month by Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal, at 81 years of age. Carlos Soria holds the record for the oldest man to summit an 8,000er without oxygen, aged 71 on his 2010 ascent of Manaslu, although Russian Boris Korshunov disputably summited Cho Oyu in 2007 aged 72. Although far from being the oldest, British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes added Everest to his record of great exploratory achievements as a 65 year-old in 2009.
Carlos Soria is therefore not breaking new ground summiting 8,000ers as a 77 year-old, but summiting Annapurna and Dhaulagiri to complete his bid for 14 8,000m mountains would prove truly remarkable, especially alongside achievements like the 7 summits completed just 6 years ago. However Soria certainly would break new ground should he complete his bid for 14 8,000m summits this season as a 77 year-old. A piece of remarkable Alpinism history could soon be made.
Carlos is regularly updating his progress on Annapurna this season via his twitter account: