Beloved Spanish alpinist Alberto Zerain died in a tragic avalanche on Nanga Parbat this week. Though he was not able to return from the mountain in this life, his memory has found a new home in the hearts among those who appreciated his attitude toward the dare of a summit and those who admired his accomplishments.
Zerain was climbing Nanga Parbat with Mariano Galvan as part of the 2x14x8000 project, which aimed to see 14 of the world’s 8,000 m. peaks climbed twice. While on the Mazeno Ridge, Zerain gave his last update to the Base Camp team on 24 June. Shortly after, his team lost contact with him and would announce on 27 June, that they believed he and Mariano Galvan had lost power on their radio communicators.
On 01 July 2x14x8000 announced that a helicopter search of the Mazeno Ridge revealed signs of a massive avalanche did not believe there was a possibility of survivors. On this day, the search for Zerain and Galvan was ended and the mountaineering world began to mourn, finally letting go of the hope they had so desperately tried to cling to in belief that he would be found alive.
Since the announcement was made, thousands of fans, friends, fellow alpinists and family have shown their love of Zerain and gathered together from the corners of the world over social media to remember and honor a man considered to be one of the greatest Spanish alpinists.
Although he was an expert climber with a plethora of feats under his belt, Zerain was humble, lovable, calm and full of positivity. From accounts of expeditions past, Alberto never put the summit before safety and always proceeded with preparedness.
When it was announced that contact had been lost, I did not think the worst. I thought it was routine until I saw that it had been almost a week since contact had been lost, then, I thought it could be serious. But I don’t think I ever admitted to myself that this kind of death was what occurred. Even after it was announced that there were likely no survivors, I still felt like he would come down, that he’d been held up in a snow pocket and would come down. I don’t think even now I truly believe it. I don’t know, but I guess the audacity of hope keeps us in a state of denial sometimes. But I am sad, genuinely sad. I felt this one hard. I thought he was a great climber, an amazing person. I was a big Zerain person. This is a blow. -Cass Légér Editor of BCM
Funeral Services for Alberto Zerain
2x14x8000 announced that this Friday, 07 July, a religious service would be held at the Church of San Miguel Archangel (Vitoria) at 19:30hr. (7:30 pm) in honor of Alberto Zerain.
On 04 July, the Board of Spokespersons of the Town Hall of Vitoria-Gasteiz agreed to appoint Alberto Zerain as a favorite son of the city, an honor many are sure Zerain would have been proud of were he here to experience it in person.
The Alpinist that was Alberto Zerain
Alberto Zerain lived life and climbed mountains in much the same way, with humble sincerity. One of his most character-defining stories takes us to back to K2, The King of Mountains, in 2008 when Zerain, lacking resources that other expeditions had, struck a deal with a Sirdar whereby he would work as a porter to earn his keep and secure a site for his tent. He worked hard side-by-side with native mountain workers, something that is a rare sight in mountaineering. His actions earned him the respect of the locals, which said they had never seen a westerner climb like a Sherpa. His skill made him legendary, his humility made him unforgettable.
During that expedition, 11 climbers would die, but Zerain, who immediately noticed the vast case of Summit Fever afflicting climbers, assaulted the summit from Camp 3 and reached the peak first. He descended safely and only when he reached Base Camp was he notified of the deaths that occurred behind him. He climbed solo that expedition.
Zerain had previously attempted Nanga Parbat in 2011. This time, he was climbing as part of the 2x14x8000 project that aimed to see Juanito Oiarzabal climb 14 of the world’s 8000 m. peaks twice, with Zerain as his partner. However, his failing health forced Oiarzabal to step out of the project leaving Alberto Zerain to pick up where he left off.
In the Spring of 2016, Alberto met Mariano Galvan, an Argentinian climber with whom he began to climb the project milestones with. Both ascended Manaslu that year in separate assaults.
Two months ago, Zerain successfully submitted Annapurna via the French Route and he proceeded to mark the next mountain on the list and chose Galvan as his partner. In June, he and Galvan attempted Nanga Parbat via the Mazeno Ridge, this would be their last ascent attempt. On 24 June, the Base Camp team lost contact with Alberto and Mariano. It is believed that an avalanche swept over the Mazeno Ridge, killing both climbers who were acclimatizing there, sweeping away the camp and surrounding area.
The deaths of these two great climbers leave a hole in the mountaineering community and Zerain’s memory will forever live on as part of the winds of Nanga Parbat, a mountain which has claimed many, who now act as Guardians of the Mountain. This year we also lost the legendary Ueli Steck during Everest2017.
Rest in Peace Alberto Zerain and Mariano Galvan.