Born in 1956 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba, Juanito Oiarzabal is still one of the most renowned mountaineers in the world today.
On April 29, 1999, on reaching the summit of Annapurna in Nepal, he completed an odyssey that had begun way back in 1985: to reach all fourteen eight-thousander summits, that is, the fourteen mountains on earth that are more than 8,000 meters (26,247 ft) high above sea level. He was the sixth verified person ever to do so, behind Reinhold Messner (Italy, b. 1944), Jerzy Kukuczka (Poland, 1948-1989), Erhard Loretan (Switzerland, 1959-2011), Carlos Carsolio Larrea (Mexico, b. 1962), and Krzysztof Wielicki (Poland, b. 1950), and the third to reach all the summits without supplementary oxygen.
Additionally, he went on to be the first person to conquer the top three summits (Everest, K2, and Kangchenjunga) twice and, with a record of twenty-seven successful eight-thousander ascents in total, is second only in ranking to the Nepalese mountaineer Phurba Tashi (on thirty).
Here are the figures for his successful ascents of all fourteen eight-thousander summits with the years he did so in parentheses.
- Everest (1993, 2001)
- K2 (1994, 2004)
- Kangchenjunga (1996, 2009)
- Lhotse (1995, 2011)
- Makalu (1995, 2008)
- Cho Oyu (1985, 2002, and 2003, the latter on two separate occasions)
- Dhaulagiri I (1998)
- Manaslu (1997, 2011)
- Nanga Parbat (1992)
- Annapurna I (1999, 2010)
- Gasherbrum I (aka Hidden Peak) (1997, 2003)
- Broad Peak (1995)
- Gasherbrum II (1987, 2003)
- Shishapangma (1998)
As if all this were not enough, Oiarzabal is now seeking to be the first person to complete all eight-thousander summits twice! As you can see from the list above, he is four ascents shy of reaching this amazing goal, and this year he’s planning ascents on Dhaulagiri I in May and, if successful there, on Broad Peak thereafter.
Just out of interest, Basques are pretty well represented in the order of mountaineers who have reached the summits of all eight-thousanders, with Alberto Iñurrategi (b. 1968) from Aretxabaleta, Gipuzkoa, coming in at tenth (being the youngest person, at thirty-three years of age, to accomplish the feat), and Edurne Pasaban (b. 1973), from Tolosa, Gipuzkoa, at twenty-first (and the first woman to do so).