Mountain Hardwear athlete and French mountaineer Jean Christophe “JC” Lafaille has been missing since January 27, 2006, and is presumed lost. Jean Christophe was attempting the first winter solo ascent of Makalu (8462m), and had been battling fierce winds and brutal temperatures since early December 2005. His last communication on January 27th via satellite phone was from his tent pitched at 7600m to his wife, Katia, letting her know that he was going for the summit.
After not hearing from JC for a few days Katia feared the worse and arranged for a helicopter search. On January 31st a helicopter left Jiri for Makalu Base Camp under clear skies. The helicopter swept the mountain for approximately 45 minutes finding no trace of JC, except for a tent above 7000 meters and two deserted cooks in advanced Base Camp. The helicopter continued to circle but there was no response.
On February 2nd Katia flew to Katmandu accompanied by her brother and Veikka Gustafsson, a close friend and fellow mountaineer. They flew to advanced base camp to carry out another search, unfortunately with the same results. Before returning to Katmandu, they touched down at advanced base camp so that Katia could pick up JC’s personal belongings.
Katia is now home in Vallorcine, France with her two children, surrounded by family and friends, including Ed and Paula Viesturs. JC and Ed were climbing partners on Annapurna in 2002 and on Broad Peak and Nanga Parbat in 2003. Not only was Jean Christophe a climbing partner of Ed Viesturs but they had become very close friends as well.
JC was known to be able to climb almost anything – sport, big wall, traditional, and of course big 8000m peaks. While there is no physical proof of Jean Christophe having actually perished on the mountain, the climbing community is mourning the loss of one of its greatest and most humble climbers.