Kristin Harila: The Woman Who Climbed the 14 Highest Peaks in Record Time

Blake Penson
02.08.2023
Kristin Harila: The Woman Who Climbed the 14 Highest Peaks in Record Time

Kristin Harila is a Norwegian mountaineer who made history by becoming the first woman and the fastest person to climb all 14 peaks above 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) in the world. She achieved this feat in just three months and one day, breaking the previous record of six months and seven days held by Nirmal "Nims" Purja.

Kristin Harila on Nanga Parbat. Photo: Kristin Harila
Kristin Harila on Nanga Parbat. Photo: Kristin Harila

 

Keep Reading: Climbing the 14 Eight-thousanders: Facts & Information

Harila, a former professional cross-country skier, started her mountaineering career in 2015 when she climbed Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. Despite suffering from severe altitude sickness, she was hooked on the sport and decided to pursue her passion for climbing. She quit her job as an executive at a furniture company in 2019 and went to the Himalayas for the first time, where she summited peaks like Lobuche East (6,119 meters) and Putha Hiunchuli (7,246 meters). In 2020, she climbed Aconcagua, South America's highest peak at 6,962 meters. In 2021, she set a new record by summiting Everest (8,848 meters) and Lhotse (8,516 meters), the world's highest and fourth highest peaks respectively, in just under 12 hours.

Harila was inspired by Purja's "Project Possible", which aimed to climb all 14 peaks above 8,000 meters in less than seven months. She decided to attempt the same challenge with a more ambitious goal: to complete it in less than four months. She wanted to empower women and show that they have a place in a sport that is dominated by men. She also wanted to raise awareness and funds for environmental causes and children's education.

Harila partnered with Tenjin Sherpa (Lama), a Nepalese climber who has been working in the mountains since he was 16. He was instrumental in ensuring both summits and safety throughout the project. He accompanied Harila on all 14 peaks and shared her vision of mountaineering unity and adventure. They became a formidable team that showcased their resilience, dedication and skill.

Tenjen Lama Sherpa and Kristin Harila on the summit of Broad Peak. Photo: Seven Summit Treks
Tenjen Lama Sherpa and Kristin Harila on the summit of Broad Peak. Photo: Seven Summit Treks

 

Harila and Tenjin scaled the 14 peaks in the following order:

  1. Shishapangma, 8027m, China (Tibet), 26th of April 2023 (14th highest)
  2. Cho Oyu, 8188m, Nepal-China (Tibet), 3rd of May 2023 (6th highest)
  3. Makalu I, 8485m, Nepal, 13th of May 2023 (5th highest)
  4. Kangchenjunga, 8586m, Nepal, 18th of May 2023 (3rd highest)
  5. Everest, 8848m, Nepal, 23rd of May 2023 (1st highest)
  6. Lhotse, 8516m, Nepal, 23rd of May 2023 (4th highest)
  7. Dhaulagiri I, 8167m, Nepal, 29th of May 2023 (7th highest)
  8. Annapurna I, 8091m, Nepal, 5th of June 2023 (10th highest)
  9. Manaslu , 8163m, Nepal, 10th of June 2023 (8th highest)
  10. Nanga Parbat, 8125m, Pakistan, 26th June 2023 (9th highest)
  11. Gasherbrum II, 8034m, Pakistan, 15th of July 2023 (13th highest)
  12. Gasherbrum I, 8080m, Pakistan, 18th of July 2023 (11th highest)
  13. Broad Peak, 8051m, Pakistan, 23rd of July 2023 (12th highest)
  14. K2, 8611m, Pakistan, 27th of July 2023 (2nd highest)
Chart: Seven Summit Treks
Infographic: Seven Summit Treks

 

Harila and Lama used bottled oxygen and relied on Sherpa support for their ascents. They also used fixed ropes and camps that were set up by other expeditions. They followed the standard routes on most of the mountains, except for Shishapangma, where they climbed a new variation on the south face.

Harila and Tenjen holding the Sami ethnical group flag on the summit of Annapurna. Photo: Kristin Harila/Instagram
Harila and Tenjen on the summit of Annapurna. Photo: Kristin Harila Instagram

 

Harila and Lama's achievement was celebrated by their sponsors, supporters and fans around the world. They also received congratulations from Purja, who praised their effort and congratulated them on breaking his record. Harila and Lama expressed their gratitude to everyone who helped them along the way and said that they hoped to inspire other adventurers and mountaineers to pursue their dreams.

Kristin's achievement has not been without controvery of course, with some in the mountaineering community accusing her of using helicopters to ferry sherpas and gear to high camps, thus making the climbs easier and faster. Harila's team denies any wrongdoing and says they used helicopters for safety reasons and reached all true summits. The debate raises questions about the ethics and validity of modern speed climbing in the Himalayas.

Either way, Harila and Lama have set a new benchmark in mountaineering history and secured their status as exceptional trailblazers in the field. Their achievement serves as an example of what human beings are capable of when they have a clear vision, a strong partner and a relentless spirit. They have also shown that women can excel in a sport that has traditionally been dominated by men and that mountaineering can transcend borders and cultures to achieve greatness together.

On a personal note, as the author of this article has climbed Mount Everest twice and many other high altitude peaks around the globe, I have nothing but absolute respect for anybody who successfully gets themself up to 8000m+ and back down safely, assisted or not. It is an incredibly difficult environment to even exist. So I give full kudos to Kristina and Tenjen Lama Sherpa on their achievements.

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Related locations

Annapurna
Location :
 Annapurna
Elevation:
 8,091 m / 26,545 ft
Cho Oyu
Location :
 Cho Oyu
Elevation:
 8,201 m / 26,906 ft
Dhaulagiri
Location :
 Dhaulagiri
Elevation:
 8,167 m / 26,794 ft
Everest via Northeast Ridge (Tibet)
Elevation:
 8,848 m / 29,029 ft
Everest via South Col (Nepal)
Elevation:
 8,848 m / 29,029 ft
Gasherbrum I
Location :
 Gasherbrum I
Elevation:
 8,080 m / 26,509 ft
Gasherbrum I (China)
Elevation:
 8,080 m / 26,509 ft
Gasherbrum II
Location :
 Gasherbrum II
Elevation:
 8,035 m / 26,361 ft
K2
Location :
 K2
Elevation:
 8,611 m / 28,251 ft
K2 Base Camp
Location :
 K2 Base Camp
Elevation:
 5,135 m / 16,847 ft
K2 China Side
Location :
 K2 China Side
Elevation:
 8,610 m / 28,248 ft
Kangchenjunga
Location :
 Kangchenjunga
Elevation:
 8,586 m / 28,169 ft
Lhotse
Location :
 Lhotse
Elevation:
 8,516 m / 27,939 ft
Makalu
Location :
 Makalu
Elevation:
 8,481 m / 27,824 ft
Manaslu
Location :
 Manaslu
Elevation:
 8,163 m / 26,781 ft
Nanga Parbat
Location :
 Nanga Parbat
Elevation:
 8,126 m / 26,660 ft
Shishapangma
Location :
 Shishapangma
Elevation:
 8,013 m / 26,289 ft

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