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Erhard Loretan

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Erhard Loretan
BornApril 28, 1959
DiedApril 28, 2011
Grünhorn, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Cause of deathMountaineering accident
Occupation(s)Mountaineer, alpine guide
Known forThird man to climb all 14 mountains over 8,000 metres, First traverse of Annapurna, in alpine-style, First ascent, solo, of Mt Epperly, Antarctica
Notable workNight Naked: A Climber's Autobiography, Himalaya
Criminal chargesManslaughter, for the accidental death of his son Ewan
Children1, Ewan
HonoursKing Albert Medal of Merit, for distinguished contribution to mountaineering (1996)

Erhard Loretan (28 April 1959 – 28 April 2011) was a Swiss mountain climber. He was the third man to climb all fourteen peaks over 8,000 meters, and the second to do so without supplementary oxygen.

Early life[edit]

Loretan was born in Bulle in the canton of Fribourg.

He climbed Dent de Broc, his first mountain at age 11 and made his first north face ascent at age 14.[1] At 15, he climbed the east face of the Doldenhorn (3,643m) in the Bernese Alps.[2] He trained as a cabinet maker (1979) and became a mountain guide in 1981.[3]

Climbing career[edit]

Loretan was the third person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders (second without oxygen). He made his first expedition to the Andes in 1980 and began climbing the eight-thousanders in 1982 with an ascent of Nanga Parbat.[1]

Thirteen years later, in 1995, he climbed the last of them, Kangchenjunga. Loretan took the principles of climbing fast and light in the Alps and applied them to the biggest mountains on Earth.[4]

In 1983, he climbed Gasherbrum II, Gasherbrum I and Broad Peak in alpine style, making the ascents in sequence across 17 days.[5]

In 1984, he did a first ascent of Annapurna (8091m) by the 7km long east ridge with Norbert Joos and descended via the north side, a traverse that has never been repeated.[6] That winter, he made the first winter ascent of Dhaulagiri.[5]

In 1986, together with Jean Troillet, Loretan made a revolutionary ascent of Mount Everest in only 40 hours, climbing by night and without the use of supplementary oxygen.[7] That winter he completed the "imperial crown" in the Valais Alps, summitting 38 peaks in 19 days.[5]

In 1988, he completed a new route with Voytek Kurtyka on the Nameless Tower (6239m), Trango Towers, Pakistan. He continued to climb in the Alps, completing 13 peaks in 13 days across the Bernese Oberland in 1989.[5]

In 1990 he climbed Denali (6,194m), Cho Oyu (8,201m) and Shishapangma (8,046).[2]

In 1994, he made a solo first ascent of Mount Epperly (4508m) in Antarctica’s Sentinel Range. While making the ascent, he noticed a nameless peak, c4800m, steeper and more difficult than Epperly. In autumn 1995, after climbing Kangchenjunga (his 14th eight-thousander), Loretan returned to Antarctica and made a first solo ascent of this peak, which has been named Peak Loretan.[8]

In 2002, he made a first ascent of Pumori's North Ridge, from the Tibetan side.[3]

Personal life[edit]

The Fiescherhorn and Grünhorn in the Alps

Loretan was convicted in 2003 of the manslaughter of his seven-month-old son, after shaking him for a short period of time to stop him crying in late 2001.[7] He was given a four-month suspended sentence.[9] At that time, shaken baby syndrome was largely unknown, but he decided to disclose his name to the press in the hope that other parents might avoid a similar tragedy. Publicity of the case raised awareness of the danger of shaking children due to their weak neck muscles.[2]


In April 2011, Loretan and his partner Xenia Minder were climbing the Grünhorn in the Swiss Alps when Minder slipped. The rope tying them together dragged them both down 200m. Minder was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries, but Loretan did not survive.[10] He died on his 52nd birthday.[7]

Climbing history[edit]

Peak Year
Nanga Parbat 1982
Gasherbrum II 1983
Gasherbrum I 1983
Broad Peak 1983
Manaslu 1984
Annapurna 1984
K2 1985
Dhaulagiri 1985
Mount Everest 1986
Cho Oyu 1990
Shisha Pangma 1990
Makalu 1991
Lhotse 1994
Kangchenjunga 1995

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Douglas, Ed (2011-05-04). "Erhard Loretan obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2024-07-10.
  2. ^ a b c "Erhard Loretan: Mountaineer who climbed Everest without ropes or oxygen in under two days". The Independent. July 28, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b "Erhard Loretan dies guiding in Switzerland". www.thebmc.co.uk. Retrieved 2024-07-10.
  4. ^ "Erhard Loretan obituary". the Guardian. 2011-05-04. Retrieved 2021-12-17.
  5. ^ a b c d "Erhard Loretan, good-bye to a great alpinist". PlanetMountain.com. Retrieved 2024-07-10.
  6. ^ "AAC Publications - Alone on Annapurna". publications.americanalpineclub.org. Retrieved 2021-12-17.
  7. ^ a b c "Famed Swiss climber Erhard Loretan dies in fall in Alps". BBC News. 2011-04-29. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
  8. ^ "Alpine Journal". www.alpinejournal.org.uk. Retrieved 2021-12-17.
  9. ^ "Erhard Loretan, Top Climber, Dies at 52". The New York Times. 2011-04-30. p. D7. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
  10. ^ "Swiss climber's lover describes final moments before his death". BBC News. 2011-04-29. Retrieved 2011-04-29.

External links[edit]