At 8,012 meters, Shishapangma (Xixabangma Feng) is the lowest of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks. But because it’s entirely located in the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwestern China, it was the last to be climbed. Mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner holds special reverence for Shishapangma—maybe even more than her epic K2 ascent—because it nearly claimed her husband’s life in 2004.
“Doing that peak together had been a longtime dream of ours,” she says. “We wanted to follow the route of the British first ascent team in 1982, up the steep south face.” During their ascent, at nearly 23,000 feet, her husband Ralf Dujmovits was hit by a rock and fell. "Thank god we were able to catch him," recalls Kaltenbrunner. But the pair was forced to abort the expedition.
They returned the next year, 2005, and struggled with hazardous avalanche conditions and uncooperative weather. They got snowed in at 24,000 feet and holed up in a cave for two days as their cooking fuel and water dangerously dwindled. “We honestly didn’t know how we were going to get out,” Kaltenbrunner says. “Then suddenly the snow stopped and was replaced with gusty wind. We went for the summit and made it. Standing there beside him, I’d never been so exhausted and so incredibly happy.”
In 2011, on her fourth attempt on K2, Austrian mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner stood on the summit of the world’s most deadly peak. In doing so, she became the first woman to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen or porters. Read her Adventurers of the Year profile.
Gerlinde Kalterbrunner's Gear Pick: PrimaLoft Jacket & Deuter Rucksack
“I never go on expedition without my turquoise bracelet. It is a symbol for strength, energy, success, and health,” says Kaltenbrunner. “I also love my PrimaLoft jacket (Schöffel) and my Deuter rucksack.”