Chinese mountaineer summits world's all 8000-metre peaks

Editor︰Ivy Cin

The Eight Thousanders refers to the 14 independent mountain peaks on earth exceeding an altitude of 8,000 metres. Conquering these peaks is one of the highest honours in the mountaineering world.

Chinese mountaineer Dong Hongjuan is the first woman in the world to have scaled all 14 of these peaks.

"Hoping to see a Chinese name on the list" 

Dong Hongjuan first dallied with mountain climbing on Mount Siguniang in Sichuan.

"At the beginning, it was curiosity that got me started, and I wanted to see what it was like at 5,000 metres above sea level. After climbing it, I felt that my body coped pretty well, so then I wanted to see what it was like at 6,000 metres, 7,000 metres, and slowly I 'climbed' from Sichuan to Xizang (also called Tibet)," she says.

High-altitude mountaineering is a "systematic project" in which physical training is essential.

Dong has kept up her rigorous exercise routine over the past 10 years. She does exercises six times a week, including running, rock climbing and swimming.

"Once I found out about this list (of 8,000-metre peak climbers), I hoped to see a Chinese name on it."

With such pure faith, Dong Hongjuan began her project of scaling the 14 peaks above 8,000 metres in 2013.

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Dong reached the top of the Mount Shishapangma, which is 8,027 metres above sea level. (Web Image)

A test of physical strength and mental resilience

Climbing high peaks requires not only physical strength and perseverance far beyond ordinary people, but also one's mental resilience.

Once during a climb of the Annapurna Peak in Nepal, Dong Hongjuan's 11-person team ran out of oxygen, food and water during the ascent and spent the night at some point over 7,000 metres above sea level.

"The only thing I was thinking at the time was if I could make it back to Beijing alive, I would definitely take a hot spring bath for a week," Dong said.

After returning home, she sat in a wheelchair for a month due to frostbite treatment.

Before changing the medicine applied on her toes, the doctor had to scrape off the necrotic tissue and fresh tissue all together. Every three or four days she had to go through this process, and the pain she remembers vividly to this day.

"But I was very positive back then, I thought to myself even if I became disabled, I had already climbed the toughest mountains."

攀登14座8000米高峰董紅娟02
In order to get to the exact highest points of all the peaks, Dong Hongjuan climbed Manaslu, Broad Peak, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma again. (Web Image)

However, an even greater challenge lay ahead - this time her ascent did not get certified.

Even though there is not yet an official organisation or institution worldwide conducting certifications or statistics on ascents, 8000ers.com run by mountaineers collects information about the ascents of the 14 peaks above 8,000 metres. The certifications it offers are authoritative in the international mountaineering community.

According to the introduction by 8000ers.com, some peaks have subsidiary peaks that are almost the same height as the main peak, and some climbers mistakenly think they have summited when they've only made it to the subsidiary peak. This was exactly the case with Dong Hongjuan.

"Just tell me where the true peak is and I will climb it; if I've climbed the wrong one, I'll climb it. I just want to be an honest climber." Roughly six years later, Dong returned to Annapurna. And this time she made it to the real top.

攀登14座8000米高峰董紅娟04
The picture shows Dong Hongjuan (third from the left in the back row) having a photo taken with her companions. (Web Image)

Keep up the climbing spirit

Such stories are not unique to her. To ensure she reached the true summit of all the peaks, Dong Hongjuan climbed several peaks more than once.

People in the climbing circle praise her: Even though there are only 14 independent peaks above 8,000 metres in the world, Dong effectively climbed "19 peaks."

In 2013, she climbed Mount Everest, followed by Cho Oyu and Gasherbrum II in 2014, K2, Nanga Parbat and Gasherbrum I in 2017, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Broad Peak in 2018, Annapurna in 2021, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu in 2022 and finally Shishapangma in 2023.

Over a decade, Dong Hongjuan, who is now in her 40s, has finally achieved her longstanding dream.

攀登14座8000米高峰董紅娟01
Holding the belief of "hoping to see a Chinese name on the list of climbers", Dong conquered all 14 peaks above 8,000 metres in a span of 10 years. (Web Image)

Even with the title of "First in the world", Dong Hongjuan maintains a sense of awe in her heart.

"Mountaineers are too insignificant. Any change in weather can engulf me. I never feel that I conquer the mountains; on the contrary, I feel like the mountains accept me."

With age catching up with her, Dong Hongjuan says, high-altitude climbing may become increasingly distant for her in the future, "But I will frequently go rock climbing to keep up with this spirit of climbing."

Read more: Close brushes with death, 69-year-old legless climber conquers Everest

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