Edurne Pasaban


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Biography of Edurne Pasabán, Spanish mountaineer. She was the first woman to reach the 14 eight-thousand mark on the planet. The first time, on Everest on May 23, 2001; and the last, in the Shisha Pangma, on May 17, 2010.

Shisha Pangma
Shisha Pangma Mountain. Credit: photographer Swinelin, on wikpedia

Those who have ever climbed a 2,000 m mountain will better appreciate the effort and sacrifice necessary to face 8,000 m climbs with cold, wind, ice, snow and lack of oxygen.

A climb to eight thousand is a prodigious feat, but climbing the world’s 14 eight thousand as Edurne Pasabán did deserves everyone’s applause and affection.

Early years of this remarkable mountaineer

Edurne Pasabán Lizarribar was born on August 1, 1973, in Tolosa, Guipúzcoa.

She studied Industrial Technical Engineering, and completed a Master in Business at ESADE, Barcelona. She then worked for four years in the family business, which is dedicated to machine building.

From the age of 14 she began to climb on rock and, little by little, she began to make more difficult ascents during her vacations, in the Pyrenees, in the Alps and in the Andes mountain range.

The summit of Mont Blanc is the highest point in Europe, 4,810 meters. Credit: Ramón Chauvel

Beginning of the climbs of Edurne Pasabán

In 1989, at the age of 16, she traveled for the first time to the Alps, where she ascended Mont Blanc (4,810 meters), the highest mountain in the entire European Union; the Matterhorn (4,478 m), the fifth highest mountain in Europe, famous for its spectacular pyramid-shaped summit; and the Monte Rosa Massif (4,614 m), the second highest mountain in Europe, surpassed only by Mont Blanc.

The following year, in 1990, at only 17 years old, she traveled to Ecuador and reached the summit of the Chimborazo Volcano, at 6,310 m, the highest mountain in that beautiful country. When Edurne reached the summit, she was farthest from the center of the Earth.

El Chimborazo, in Ecuador. Credit: David Torres

Four years later, in 1994, she went back to Ecuador. She climbed to the summits of 3 volcanoes: the Cotopaxi, of 5,897 m; the Tungurahua, 5,016 m; and the Guagua Pichincha, 4,971 m.

Two years later, in 1996, she traveled to the fabulous Cordillera Blanca in Peru. She climbed Nevado Ishinca, 5,530 m and Urús, 5,495 m.

Edurne Pasabán climbs through the Himalayas

Two years later, at the age of 25, in 1998, she traveled to the Himalayas for the first time, with the Tolosa mountain club; She tried to conquer her first eight thousand, the Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), but had to resign when she was only 272 meters from the top, due to the large amount of accumulated snow.

The Dhaulagiri, 8,167 meters. Credit: photographer Solundir

In 1999 and in 2000, she tried to reach the top of Everest (8,848 m) without supplemental oxygen. On both occasions, she had to give up, because of the bad weather conditions.

On May 23, 2001, she made a new attempt to reach the top of Everest. This time with the help of artificial oxygen and together with Silvio Mondinelli, Mario Merelli, Iván Vallejo and Sherpa Dawa.

They made it to the top; and Edurne was the third Spanish woman to reach the summit of Everest; got her first eight thousand. Previously, Araceli Segarra (in 1996) and Chus Lago (in 1999) had achieved it.

Everest, at 8,848 meters, is the highest mountain on Earth. Credit: Rupert Taylor-Price

In October 2001, Edurne made a second attempt to climb the Dhaulagiri mountain range, culminating in Dhaulagiri Peak, the seventh highest peak on Earth (8,167 m).

She was with the mountaineers Carlos Soria, Pepe Garcés, Silvio Mondinelli and Mario Merelli. They did not succeed; And the worst thing was that, when they were returning, Pepe Garcés killed himself by slipping and falling into the void.

In that same month of October, she accompanied a team that tried to rescue the bodies of five Basque and Navarrese mountaineers who had just died in Pumori (in the Himalayas).

They had to give up the rescue mission, due to the great danger of landslides.

Eight months later, on May 16, 2002, she scored her second eight thousand, by reaching the top of Makalu (8,465 m), together with Silvio Mondinelli, Mario Merelli and Carlos Pauner.

On October 5 of that year 2002, she reached the summit of Cho Oyu (8,201 m), in the Himalayas, the sixth highest mountain on Earth.

She did it together with Juanito Oiarzabal, Iván Vallejo and José Ramón Aguirre. It was her third eight thousand.

Juanito Oyarzábal
Juanito Oiarzábal, Basque mountaineer, the first Spaniard and the sixth in the world to climb the 14 mountains of more than 8,000. Credit: Wikipedia

Edurne Pasabán’s climbs are televised

In 2003, Edurne managed to make three more eight thousand, with which she added 6 eight thousand; Her exploits reached every home, due to the TV team “On the Edge of the Impossible.”

On May 26, she summited Lhotse (8,516 m), along with Vallejo and Ion Goikoetxea.

On July 19, she reached Gasherbrum II (8,035 m) together with Juanito Oiarzabal, Bereziartua and Aguirre.

On July 26, she reached Gasherbrum I (8,068 m), together with Juanito Oiarzabal and Bereziartua.

Edurne Pasabán regularly counted among her main sponsors with the Spanish Television (TVE) program “On the edge of the impossible”, which accompanied her on her last eight ascents.

Immediately afterwards, she began to program with Juanito Oyarzabal the ascent, the following year, to K-2 (8,611 meters); They would participate in the recording of a documentary for the program “On the edge of the impossible”.

This seventh eight thousand was achieved together with Juanito Oyarzabal, Juan Vallejo and Mikel Zabalza, on July 26, 2004.

During the descent, Edurne suffered the frostbite of two phalanges of the toes and Juanito Oyarzabal suffered the frostbite of the ten toes.

Fifteen days later, both suffered the amputation of those frozen fingers.

A year later, she set out again for the Himalayas, to conquer the eighth eight thousand. On July 20, 2005, in the company of Josu Bereziartu, Marianne Chapuisat, Ester Sabadell and Iván Vallejo, she climbed Nanga Parbat (8,125 m).

The harshness of the Nanga expedition and the announcement of bad weather conditions made them give up going to climb Broad Peak (8,051 m), also known as K-3.

Upon her return, Eduren fell into a depression that lasted a year and a half and that was about to make her give up her attempt to continue ascending to eight thousand.

Broad Peak
The Broad Peak, known as K3, is 8,051 meters high and is located near the border between China and Pakistan. Credit: Robert Pupkin

Edurne Pasabán continued to accumulate feats

After recovering, on July 12, 2007, she accumulated her ninth eight thousand at the end of the ascent to Broad Peak (8,051 m).
But, she failed in her attempt to reach the Shisha Pangma (8,013 m), the lowest of the eight thousand and located in Tibet.

The following year, on May 1, 2008, she reached the top of Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), the seventh highest peak in the world.

On October 5, 2008, she reached the top of Manaslu (8,156 m), together with Alex Txikon, Asier Izaguirre, Mikel Zabalza, Ester Sabadell, Ferrán Latorre, Juanjo Garra; and the Sherpas Muktu and Pemba.

After reaching the summit in Manaslu, in Nepal, she added her eleventh eight thousand, of the fourteen in the world.

Edurne Pasabán
Edurne Pasabán when she conquered her eleventh eight thousand. Credit: Raúl Vega, 20 Minutes newspaper, 10/08/2008

At the end of March 2009, he set out for Nepal with her fellow expeditions.

This time, the goal was to climb Kangchenjunga, the first of the three remaining “eight thousand“.

She was accompanied on the ascent by Juanito Oiarzabal, Ferrán Latorre, Alex Txikon, Asier Izaguirre, Jorge Egocheaga; and the Sherpa Pasang and Zangmu. Edurne climbed, affected by tracheobronchitis, but reached the top and thus became the fourth woman to reach it.

The next day, when they continued their descent, Edurne was totally exhausted; She managed to complete the descent thanks to the effort of her companions and the oxygen provided by Oriol Riba, a member of another expedition.

During this descent, both she and Alex Txikon suffered frostbite, which forced them to be admitted to the MAZ clinic.

The tremendous effort had given her the satisfaction of being the first woman to climb 12 “eight thousand.”

In the fall of 2009, she attempted the ascent of Shisha Pangma (8,046 m) for the fourth time; it did not succeed, due to unfavorable weather conditions.

The decision to abandon the attempt coincided with the death of Roberto Piantoni, a member of an Italian expedition with which they had shared the base camp.

Edurne and her companions joined Piantoni’s team in the task of recovering her body.

Edurne Pasabán
Edurne, with Fernán Latorre, Alex Txikin and Asier Iza. Credit: Alfredo Merín, Sport World, March 2010

On April 17, 2010, she reached the top of Annapurna (8,091 m), together with Asier Izaguirre, Alex Txikon, Joao Garcia and Nacho Orviz, her thirteenth eight thousand.

Anna Purna
The Annapurna photographed from the base camp, is in the center of the Himalayas. Credit: Martín Cox.

The remarkable Spanish mountaineer conquered 14 eight thousand

On May 17, 2010, in a fifth attempt, she reached the top of Shisha Pangma (8,013), the lowest of the 14 eight-thousand that exceed this magical height in the entire planet.

Edurne Pasabán had conquered on that day, the 14 eight thousand.

She reached the top with her fellow expeditions Asier Izaguirre, Alex Txikon and Nacho Orviz, three members of an Italian expedition (Mario Panzeri, Michele Compagnioni and Alberto Magliano), and several members of two other expeditions, Spanish and Japanese, respectively.

Later life of the athlete Edurne Pasabán

After this heroic stage of 14 eight thousand, she has dedicated herself to giving conferences and creating a travel company. She has done little mountain, compared to what she was used to doing.

She has continued traveling to the Himalayas, to climb; and has been dealing with the projects of the “Edurne Pasabán Mountaineers for the Himalayas Foundation“.

It is a private foundation without religious or political connotation, non-profit, that groups mountaineers in solidarity with the children of the mountains of Nepal, Pakistan, Tibet, India and Bhutan, with the hope of opening a path to education. Among others, they have completed the construction of 155 homes. Share philosophy and projects with “Mountaineers for the Himalayas”, based in Andorra.

In addition, in her own words, she has “been trying to make the eight thousand largest of my life, the eight thousand that you never stop climbing, I have been creating a family.”

Now she has a partner for the fifteenth eight-thousandth climb, who is not in the Himalayas, as she publicly expressed her intention to start a family and be a mother, something she always saw as incompatible with her career in the mountains. She is now the mother of a baby named Max.

Apart from this last “award”, Edurne Pasabán has received multiple public recognitions for her magnificent sporting feat, honoring Spain and women’s sport.

She lives and works in Barcelona, giving lectures on self-improvement at ESADE, at the Ramón Llull University. She is preparing to obtain the title of personal trainer and trains daily for three or four hours at the Sant Cugat High Performance Center (Barcelona).

In November 2015, she reopened the Abeletxe, a restaurant in Zizurkil, which her family had run for decades.

The farmhouse, restored as a luxury space, is dedicated exclusively to events, such as weddings, family celebrations or business meetings. The inauguration included a parade with models by Isabel Zapardiez and numerous guests, such as the soprano Ainhoa ​​Arteta.

In the twentieth century there have been many Spanish women who began to make news in the sports world. Among them: Almudena Cid (gymnastics), Carolina Marín (badminton) Mireia Belmonte (swimming), Ona Carbonell (swimming) and Teresa Perales (Paralympic swimming).

Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation.

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