Cause of Mauduit Death Confirmed
Climbing Companion Tells His Story
Tuesday, September 29, 1998

Chantal Mauduit
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In May 1998, noted female French alpinist Chantal Mauduit was missing for several days on Nepal's Dhaulagiri before her body, along with that of her Sherpa companion Tshering, was found in a tent at camp II. Ed Viesturs, who was making his own attempt on the mountain at the same time, reported to The Mountain Zone on the tragedy.

Viesturs, who had climbed with Mauduit on K2 in 1992 (a story featured in the book, In the Zone), noted that Camp II was exposed to avalanche and spindrift and he speculated that the two had perished in their tent due to avalanche, snow build up, or from using a stove in a closed tent covered with snow.

Francois Mauduit, the brother of Chantal Mauduit, recently forwarded to The Mountain Zone a letter written by Frederique Delrieu to the editor of the French magazine Montagne ("Mountain"). Delrieu, a friend and climbing companion of Chantal Mauduit, states that evidence shows that Mauduit's and Tshering's deaths resulted from a small avalanche, not from suffocation or from failure to dig out the tent.

"A small avalanche could well have been the cause of the accident," Viesturs said. "At the time there seemed no way of knowing for sure exactly what had occurred. Whatever happened, her death deeply affected everyone on the mountain last spring, and those all over the world who had known her."

[The Mountain Zone's reports (below) were intended to shed some light on the accident as quickly as possible. The editors regret if Ed Viesturs' remarks, intended to provide information on the tragedy when none was available elsewhere, were misinterpreted as being critical of Chantal Mauduit.--Ed.]

The letter from Frederique Delrieu to Montagne follows:
"I have just come across the short article published in your magazine concerning my friend Chantal Mauduit. Like many of those who had the opportunity to know and be close to Chantal, I was extremely shocked by what was written.

"I know Ed well. He is one of the best American climbers. The three of us — Chantal, Ed and I, climbed together in the Mont Blanc range. Chantal was in the lead with her high spirits and smile as usual and we were behind. I am anxious to talk to him to find out if what he had to say was not wrongly interpreted.

"I went to Nepal with Mick and Marco (agents of Sector, her sponsor) to get Chantal's body and we met the veritable witnesses of the "after accident". Incidentally we were able to see Chantal dead right in front of us, her neck broken by the sudden avalanche which killed her. The doctor in charge of establishing the death certificate is categorical as to the exact cause of death and the Sherpa who went to get Chantal and Tshering took pictures which leave no doubt: a small avalanche, if you were to refer to the Himalayan scale.

"The climbers who played an active role in the search for Chantal and Tshering and whom we met in Kathmandu believe they did not make a mistake: good acclimatization, good choice of camp sites, departures with favorable weather forecasts. They were in high spirits and excellent shape. This time the Dhaulagiri was extremely cruel. Chantal and Tshering payed the highest price for it.

"The image of Chantal — victim of the mountain, inanimated due to a broken neck - will stick in my mind for a very long time. So I am furious when I read that 'the nonchalant and carefree' Chantal may have forgotten to clean off the excess snow which had accumulated on her tent and that she asked for a gas asphyxiation by cooking in her ice tomb.

"Chantal took part in 18 expeditions, participated in hundreds of well known ascents throughout the world and she had been climbing for 18 years. Do you think you can go back 18 times in a row to the highest altitudes and participate in as many of the most demanding 'vertical trips' by climbing carelessly? Do you think that Chantal and Tshering, as experienced as they were, did not know that you have to take off the excess snow from the tent and that you do not cook inside (this is one of the first things that Chantal taught me)?

"Her climbing friends can testify: Chantal was optimistic, adventurous, strong and determined, but her master word was PRUDENCE. Chantal believed 'no peak is worth dying for it' as too many other things interested her and incited her to come back down alive and take off with pleasure towards alternate horizons. When 'it was not the right time', it was not the right time.

"Chantal was captivated by the beauty of the world and she looked for it everywhere, everyday. Up there, she expressed herself in the kingdom which she had made her own. She was sincerely happy there, in perfect harmony with nature and extremely at ease - which of course incited some jealousy (it is difficult to admit that you are weaker than a very beautiful and nice young woman who was naturally brilliant). She also knew how to look for and anticipate danger in order to avoid it. She possessed a rare intelligence and an unquestionable experience which she learned from the Himalayas. At the time of her death, she was one of the most experienced Himalayists, having more lessons to give than to receive concerning the situation (even if she hated that).

"She climbed to the top of mountains because she liked to be up top, that's all. Chantal travelled throughout the third world and she owed her freedom to the extraordinary opportunity of being born in a favorable part of the world. This she never forgot because it is what permitted her to fulfill her dreams. The rest, her recognition (TV, radio), her news coverage and her achievements were not very important. She was led by her generous heart which dictated her acts without thinking, eager above all to progress as an individual.

"This was a very honest approach. So if some people think that she had not found one of the best ways to travel through the kingdom of the Himalayas, I will let them think about it on their own — provided that they are capable of doing it.

"Mountains are a domain where all of us who are alive inevitably were lucky one day - we were allowed a reprieve. Is there a climber in the world who never made a mistake, who never acted rashly? Mountains are dangerous and stronger than all of us - that should be clear. Chantal lost her life by following her passion for the high altitude. She did not make a mistake. But even if she had, there are more important things to remember than that.

"Chantal, this time, as always, did everything necessary so that things would go well. Nothing strange happened up there. An avalanche began like plenty elsewhere at the same time. Chantal and Tshering were hit, they were not lucky. The 14 mountains in the world above 8000 meters (26,195 feet) are at the same time delicious and monstrous.

"I will never cease to thank Chantal. She helped me find more than a mountain, showing an extraordinary route, filled with light, happiness and tolerance. Everyday I will remember the enchantment of the years I spent with her. At the end of the mass for Chantal, Christophe Profit said something which I would like you to keep in mind : 'Above all, she showed that there was a beautiful way to get to the top.'"

Mauduit's Body to be Flown to France
Wednesday, May 27, 1998

KATHMANDU, Nepal - It took 10 Sherpas to carefully maneuver their way down the slopes of Mt. Dhaulagiri with the body of a famous French mountaineer who was killed by an avalanche May 16.

The Sherpas were hired to retrieve the body of Chantal Mauduit, who was killed by an avalanche while trying to climb the 8,167 meter (26,950 feet) high Mount Dhaulagiri on May 17.

A rescue helicopter picked up Mauduit's body at the base camp and flew her to Kathmandu on Wednesday, said Rinji Sherpa, who had equipped the expedition and later coordinated the rescue effort.

Mauduit, a 34-year-old professional mountain guide from Les Houches, France was attempting to climb Mt. Dhaulagiri with a Spanish team when she and her local guide, Sherpa Ang Tshering, 45, were found dead inside their tents at camp II.

They were killed by an avalanche while they were asleep, said a French Embassy official in Kathmandu. The Embassy is sending her body to her hometown where she will be cremated.

It was not immediately known if the body of the Sherpa was also flown to Kathmandu.

Binaj Gurubacharya , Mountain Zone Correspondent

Famed Female Alpinist and Sherpa Guide Found Dead on Mountain
Monday, May 18, 1998

mauduit Chantal Mauduit
KATHMANDU, Nepal-- A famed French female alpinist and her Sherpa guide were found dead Saturday on Mt. Dhaulagiri in the Nepal Himalaya.

Chantal Mauduit, a 34-year-old professional mountain guide from Les Houches, France, and Sherpa Ang Thsering, 45, were found at an altitude of 6,400 meters (21,120 feet), officials said Sunday.

According to the Nepalese Tourism Industry, the two were attempting to climb the 8,167 meter peak with a Spanish team. Their bodies were found at camp II. The cause and the exact time of their deaths are not yet known.

Mauduit has already made successful ascents of Mt. K2 in Pakistan and Mounts Lhotse, Manaslu and Pumori in Nepal. The team was using the northeast ridge route to make their climb.

While climbing K2 in 1992, Mauduit was pinned by a storm near the mountain's camp IV and was rescued by famed climbers Scott Fischer , who was killed on Mt. Everest in 1996, and Ed Viesturs . This harrowing ordeal is explained in detail in the book, In The Zone .

Binaj Gurubacharya , Mountain Zone Correspondent

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