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French Climber Perished on Makalu

By GreatOutdoors Staff - June 22nd, 2006

Jean-Christophe Lafaille, the French high altitude climber, is presumed dead after he failed to return from a solo attempt on 27,766-foot Makalu on January 29th. A helicopter search failed to find any signs of the climber.

Lafaille, who already had climbed 11 of the 8,000 meter peaks, made a successful solo winter ascent of Shishipangma last year. Lafaille had been a frequent partner to Ed Viesturs. The two had been on Annapurna together in 2002, and climbed Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat together in 2003.

The climber is believed to had disappeard above 25,000 feet on Makalu on or around January 29. Friends and family kept hope alive that Lafaille would eventually make it back to base camp, but no sign of the climber has been seen between his high camp and the summit.

"It's just one of those terrible situations," said Viesturs, "where a climber just disappears. Even though there is no sign of his body, it's just been too long. It's clear that JC is dead."

Viesturs said that his longtime climbing partner, Veikka Gustafsson of Finland, flew to Nepal to meet up with Lafaille's wife, Katia, who was arriving from France to help search for the missing man. Gustaffson and Katia Lafaiile flew to the climber's base camp to assist with the search. They reached the climber's camp, where two Sherpa waited for Lafaille, but there was no sign of the French climber between camp and his intended route. Lafaille was not in radio communication with the Sherpa climbers at his base camp, so they were unable to shed light on what happened.

"He was a great guy," said Viesturs, "and it's just tragic that this has happened. It just underscores how dangerous it is to attempt these big peaks in winter, particularly when you are climbing solo."


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