Kristin Harila to Attempt Body Recovery of Sherpa Partner

28 views 6:51 pm 0 Comments January 24, 2024

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Kristin Harila and Tenjen Lama Sherpa on Broad Peak. Tenjen died in an avalanche in October; (photo/Seven Summit Treks)

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She may have retired from mountaineering, but Kristin Harila will go back for her friend. The Norwegian climber and her partner Tenjen “Lama” Sherpa drew international acclaim in summer 2023 for summiting all 14 of the world’s tallest peaks in a record-setting 3 months. By October, Tenjen was back in the Himalayas, guiding a different client up Shishapangma when an avalanche swept both to their deaths.

Dangerous weather conditions meant the bodies were never recovered — something that Harila now hopes to change.

In an Instagram post this week, Harila announced an expedition to retrieve her “brother” and his client, American climber Gina Marie Rzucidlo. Harila plans to return to the Tibetan mountain this spring, when weather conditions “will be more favourable.”

She has also created a GoFundMe campaign to raise about $300,000 for the operation. A budget shows the estimated costs, which include $80,000 for a helicopter and $120,000 for eight sherpas.

“I am in contact with Lama’s family on a daily basis. They wish for their father’s body to come home, so they can give him a proper funeral,” she wrote on Instagram. “Now, I am asking you to help me so that I can help Lama and Ginas families.”

Harila Auctions Watch Used on 12 Peaks

Doing anything in the Himalayas costs a lot of money, and that’s even more true for rescue operations. To successfully retrieve Tenjen’s body, Harila and her rescue team will need to pay for “drones, helicopters, permits, transportation and security equipment,” she wrote.

She’s also auctioning off one of the five Bremont S300 Vigo watches she used while setting her 2023 record with Tenjen. Harila used this particular watch while ascending 12 of the 8,000m peaks she climbed last summer. The auction ends on Feb. 4. Its highest bid was $6,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.

kristin harila
Norwegian mountaineer Kristin Harila; (screen capture/courtesy the BBC)

Between the GoFundMe and the auction, Harila hopes to raise enough money to do a thorough helicopter search of the mountain. That wasn’t possible in October, when poor weather made flying dangerous. There was also a chance that flying too close could cause further avalanches.

But with improved spring weather, a thorough heli-search of the mountain could very likely find the bodies of Tenjen and Rzucidlo, Harila said. Both climbers were wearing RECCO reflectors, equipment that emits a radar signal for rescuers.

For Harila, the recovery mission is deeply personal. When Tenjen first went missing in October, she immediately flew to Kathmandu, where “the truth I did not want to accept came over me like a cold, dark certainty,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page. Harila eventually spoke to the families of Tenjen and Rzucidlo. Everyone said they wanted the bodies brought home.

“As horrible as it is to lose someone, the fact of not being able to have a body to give a proper funeral, makes it even worse for the families,” Harila wrote. “No matter the religion, culture or nationality, we all need closure. Lama’s wife and two boys told me several times, that they wish for Lama’s body to come home.”

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Gasherbrum I, Karakoram, Pakistan; (photo/Mark Horrell via Flickr)

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