An unusual successful team
Things didn’t go well on the eight-thousanders in Karakorum this summer. “It was just too hot, and the conditions were too dangerous”, the German mountaineer Billi Bierling, who had tried unsuccessfully to climb Broad Peak, wrote to me. This mountain was scaled only twice this season: by the Argentine Mariano Galvan and Andrzej Bargiel from Poland, both climbed solo. Bargiel also succeeded in skiing down to the Base Camp. A Pakistani high altitude porter died in an avalanche.
All K 2 expeditions returned home without summit success. 13 climbers reached the highest point of Gasherbrum II. There was a fatality too: The Pole Olek Ostrowski disappeared on G II and was not found. On neighboring Gasherbrum I, so far – two Czechs are still on the mountain – just a team of three was successful, including a German mountaineer, born in my hometown Cologne.
23 hours en route
On 24 July at 4 p.m. local time, Thomas called “Tom” Seidensticker along with the Spaniard Ferran Latorre and the Frenchman Yannick Graziani reached the 8080-meter-high summit (look at Yannick’s video below). “We have climbed without bottled oxygen, in Alpine style”, Tom writes to me. Due to heavy snow and great avalanche danger, the trio was unable to take the normal route. “In the lower parts, we climbed mainly over rocks, very technical at this altitude, and very steep”, the 48-year-old says. They followed more or less the “German route” via the Northwest Face that had been opened in the Northwest Face by Guenter Sturm, Michel Dacher and Sigi Hupfauer in 1982. On the summit day, it took them 23 hours to climb from Camp 3 to the highest point and back. They descended into the night, in poor visibility. “It was extremely exciting but fortunately turned out all right. I have contributed my part to the summit success”, says Tom.
One hobby climber, two professionals
Seidensticker describes himself as an amateur climber. The investment banker has been living in the Tunisian capital Tunis for 20 years. In September 2014, he scaled his first eight-thousander, Manaslu in Nepal, having used bottled oxygen. His two teammates on Gasherbrum were professionals. For Latorre, it was already his eleventh eight-thousander. Graziani made headlines in October 2013, when he and his fellow countryman Stéphane Benoist repeated the route via the Annapurna South Face that Ueli Steck had opened only two weeks before. The two Frenchmen had climbed under worse conditions than the Swiss had done.
Seidensticker’s initial climbing partner for G I had hurt his knee in a climbing accident and had to call off the expedition. Yannick heard of Tom’s plans in the Karakorum and called the German. They knew each other for about ten years and had repeatedly climbed together in the Mont Blanc massif. 48 hours after Graziani, Latorre called Seidensticker too, because he had heard of the new plans of the Frenchman. “Et voilà! I had two top stars in my team”, says Tom. “That’s the reason why this expedition means so much to me. When has an amateur climber like me the chance to climb with two professionals of the highest level for weeks?” The rope team went together well, says Tom: “I really have experienced everything positive that you can experience on an eight-thousander.” Summit included.
Date17. August 2015 | 16:01