Press release · 26 June 2023 · Nanga Parbat base camp (Pakistan)
Sophie Lavaud, at the summit of Nanga Parbat, enters the legend of the 14 peaks over 8,000 metres high.
On 26 June 2023, by reaching the summit of Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, the 9th highest mountain in the world at 8126 m, French-Swiss-Canadian Sophie Lavaud completed her challenge: to climb all 14 of the world’s 8000 m summits. She has thus completed her Himalayan grand slam, an ambitious project that began in 2012.
Sophie Lavaud becomes the first French to have climbed all 14 of the world’s 8,000m summits, the first Swiss woman and the first Canadian.
On 26 June 2023, Sophie Lavaud made Himalayan history.
First French climber (man and woman)
In the history of Himalayan climbing, France was the first nation to plant its flag on a peak over 8000m: Annapurna (1950, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal).
Surprisingly, given the high standard of French Himalayan climbing, none of the French climbers who attempted the 14 8000m summits survived their quest for the giants of the earth. Liliane & Maurice Barard, Chantal Mauduit, Benoit Chamoux, Jean-Christophe Lafaille, to name few of the most famous, all lost their lives in this journey for the Himalayan absolute.
Without having initially planned it, and without claiming to be a performer, Sophie Lavaud has become the first French person to complete this quest for all 14 8000m summits.
1st Swiss woman & 1st Canadian
Among the Swiss, it was the guide Erhard Loretan who first succeeded in climbing the fourteen 8000m (5 October 1995), becoming the 3rd man to do so after the Italian Reinold Messner (1986) and the Polish Jerzy Kukuczka (18 September 1987).
Sophie Lavaud is the first Swiss woman to achieve such a feat.
The same goes for Canada: with three passports, Sophie has achieved a hat-trick, as no Canadian before her has ever climbed the 14 giants!
Top 3 women and top 10 worldwide
Around forty men and women worldwide have climbed the 14 Himalayan giants. But with the new list unveiled in July 2022 (see inset), there are actually fewer than 10 men and women and only 3 women to have climbed the fourteen real summits over 8000 m: China’s Dong Hong Juan on 26 April 2023, followed by Norway’s Kristin Harila on 3 May 2023 and Sophie Lavaud on 26 June 2023.
It took Sophie Lavaud eleven years and twenty-two expeditions to reach the top of all fourteen peaks over 8000m spread between Nepal, China (Tibet) and Pakistan.
Chronology of his climbs:
2012: Shishapangma, central summit (8013 m, Tibet), and Cho Oyu (8188 m, Tibet)
2014: Everest (8850 m, Tibet)
2015: Gasherbrum II (8035 m, Pakistan)
2016: Makalu (8485 m, Nepal)
2017: Broad Peak (8051 m, Pakistan), Manaslu antecima (8163 m, Nepal)
2018: K2 (8611 m, Pakistan)
2019 : Annapurna I (8091 m, Nepal), Kangchenjunga (8586 m, Nepal), Gasherbrum I (8068 m, Pakistan)
2021 : Dhaulagiri (8167 m, Nepal)
2022 : Lhotse (8516 m, Nepal), Manaslu (8163 m, Nepal)
2023: Shishapangma (8027 m, Tibet), Nanga Parbat (8126 m, Pakistan)
New ranking: the true summit criterion in the 14 x 8000 race
Released in July 2022, geographer Eberhard Jurgalski’s (8000ers.com) new list, which examines the validity of summit proofs and takes into account true summits, has turned the rankings of the 14 x 8000 race upside down: “This stupid and nasty list doesn’t take into account style (alpine style, with or without oxygen), it just checks the validity of the race, in other words whether or not the summit has been reached,” explains topographer and columnist Rodolphe Popier. “Manaslu is an astonishing example: the first climbers found the summit, but three quarters of the official summiters didn’t”.
Those, like Sophie Lavaud, who are currently in the race, have realigned themselves with the new criteria, not hesitating to climb summits again to validate them.
It’s hard to guess that a mountaineer is hiding behind the fifty-year-old woman. Born in Lausanne on 15 May 1968, Sophie Lavaud stands out in the mountain world. Firstly, because this sales and marketing manager for the luxury hotel industry, then in cosmetics, is not a professional athlete. Secondly, she started mountaineering late in life, in her thirties. And lastly, because she is a “woman like everyone else”, a “simple” woman with unusual dreams, but who gives herself the means to realise them, at her own pace. Honest and modest, she has her own style, one summit after another, and then we’ll see.
With her climbing partner Dawa Sangay Sherpa, she has been on one expedition after another. She makes no secret of the fact that she uses oxygen if the need arises, particularly for safety reasons because she is cold and doesn’t want to lose her fingers. She makes a point of doing the acclimatisation stages and only takes oxygen the night before the summit from the last altitude camp for the final push. However, she reached the summit of Gasherbrum 2 and Broad Peak without oxygen.
Step by step, in a modest way, it was after climbing Everest in 2014 that she set her sights on the grail of fourteen 8000m summits. At first, she kept this objective to herself. Although she’s not in the quest for a feat, or in the race for a record, far from the sprinters of the 8000, she has shown great determination in this undertaking. She’s made great progress since her first Mont-Blanc in 2004! That’s when she got hooked on altitude and summits. Dreaming of going ever higher, she organised her time around this passion. Then, after setting up an events company in finance with her brother, she ended up devoting herself 100% to her project, resigning from her last job in 2015 and managing to make ends meet, one expedition after another, thanks to benefactors, sponsors and partners.
In addition to her expeditions, Sophie Lavaud is a volunteer ambassador for the NGO Terre des hommes. She supports and gives visibility to projects that are close to her heart in the countries where her expeditions take place.
Also an ambassador for RECCO®, with Dawa Sangay Sherpa, Sophie organises training courses in Nepal and Pakistan to raise awareness of avalanche risks among high-altitude sherpas and porters.
With the success on Nanga Parbat, renowned as a dreadful 8000-metre climb with its very steep face and the famous “Kinshofer” wall, Sophie brings this long chapter of her life to a fitting close.