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with Stefan Nestler

Piolet d’Or for two Brits and three Russians

Summit selfie of Ramsden (l.)  and Bullock (r.)

There will be a celebration tonight in Grenoble – with Golden Ice Axes.  In a special ceremony in the town in the French Alps, this year’s winners will receive the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of Mountaineers”. A high-grade jury, including German top climber Thomas Huber, selected two expedition teams for the prestigious award this spring. The two Britons Paul Ramsden and Nick Bullock are honored for their first ascent of the North Face of the 7,046-meter-high Nyainqentangla South East in Tibet. The wall “was almost impossible to describe without using superlatives,” Nick Bullock wrote on his website after the expedition in fall 2016. “It was a dream, it had runnels, ice, fields of snow, arêtes – the face twisted and turned in some warped massive monster Matterhorn way”. Nick called the face a “mouth-puckering 1600 m”. It took Ramsden and Bullock five days to climb the wall.

Date

8. November 2017 | 15:13

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Russians make first ascent of Phungi

Ascent (red) and descent route (green)

Who says that there are no playgrounds for top climbers in the Himalayas anymore? Yury Koshelenko and Aleksei Lonchinskii have erased a blank spot on the map of the six-thousanders. 0n 28 October the two Russians succeeded the first ascent of the 6,538-meter-high Phungi, located west of the eight-thousander Manaslu in Nepal. The 54-year-old Koshelenko and  Lonchinskii, aged 35, climbed on a rather direct route through the about  1,500-meter-high Southeast Face of the mountain. It took them three days for the ascent in Alpine style and two more days for the descent on a different route.

Date

6. November 2017 | 17:42

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Uluru banned for climbing from 2019

Uluru, holy mountain of the Aborigines

The holy mountain of the Aborigines will become a forbidden one. From 26 October 2019, Uluru, Australia’s most famous mountain, can no longer be climbed. “It’s an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” said Sammy Wilson, chairman of the National Park Board, himself an Anangu. These local Aborigines have been living near Uluru for at least 30,000 years. The striking, 863-meter-high monolith, formerly also known as Ayers Rock, has a great spiritual significance for the indigenous people of Australia. Legends from the mythical dreamtime of the Aborigines surround the mountain Uluru. Numerous places on the huge rock, which is shimmering red because of the high iron content, are sacred to the Anangu and is neither allowed to be entered nor photographed.

Date

3. November 2017 | 0:59

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Biogas from Everest faeces

This is where the biogas plant is to be built

There are things that stink to high heaven – quite literally. For example, if up to 1000 climbers, high altitude porters, cooks, kitchen helpers and other staff relieve themselves for two months during the spring season in the base camp on the Nepalese south side of Mount Everest. The number of 12,000 kilograms of faeces has been reported for years, which seems to me rather low. The removal of the human waste from Everest Base Camp has been regulated for a long time, in contrast to the faecal problem in the high camps. The excrements from the toilet tents of the expeditions are collected in barrels and carried downwards by so-called “shit porters” – until 2014 without exception to Gorak Shep, the next small settlement, located  about five kilometers from the base camp, now also further down the valley. There the faeces have been tipped into pits thus posing a great danger to the drinking water. The International Climbing and Moutaineering Association (UIAA) has now awarded an environmental protection project which could make an important contribution to tackling the problem.

Date

28. October 2017 | 14:59

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Simone Moro turns 50: “I’m still alive”

Simone Moro

It does not hurt more than usual. I can say that from my own experience. It is rather a mental challenge to realize that the first 50 years are over and the second half of life has definitely begun. Time to take stock. This Friday, Simone Moro celebrates his 50th birthday. The Italian can already be more than satisfied with his career as a high-altitude climber. No one else besides Simone has four winter first ascents of eight-thousanders on his account.

In 2005, Moro summited along with the Polish climber Piotr Morawski the 8027-meter-high Shishapangma for the first time in the cold season. Three other first winter ascents followed: In 2009 with the native Kazakh Denis Urubko on Makalu (8,485 m), in 2011 with Urubko and the American Cory Richards on Gasherbrum II (8,034 m) and in 2016 with the Spaniard Alex Txikon and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” on Nanga Parbat (8,125 m). Simone did all these eight-thousander climbs without bottled oxygen. Last spring, Moro and the South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger had planned to traverse the four summits of the Kangchenjunga massif, but had to turn back without having reached a single summit. Two attempts ended at 7,200 meters, because Simone suffered from stomach ache. Moro is married to the South Tyrolean climber Barbara Zwerger and has a 19-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. Simone has also earned his merits as a rescue helicopter pilot in the Himalayas.

Simone, half a century in your legs, how does that feel?

Date

26. October 2017 | 11:25

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Lhotse summit push scheduled for the end of October

Sung Taek Hong on ascent to Camp 4

Shaken but prepared for the summit attempt – this is how the state of the team of Sung Taek Hong can be described. The 50-year-old South Korean, his 49-year-old Spanish climbing partner Jorge Egocheaga and their Sherpa team are currently recovering in the base camp at the foot of Lhotse from their last ascent into the South Face of the fourth highest mountain on earth. As reported previously, they had pitched Camp 3 at 7,800 meters and Camp 4 at 8250 meters. During the ascent, Furba Wangyal Sherpa and Phurba Sherpa had been slightly injured by rockfall near Camp 2. They left the base camp to be treated. “Thankfully they said it isn’t too serious,” the team informed on their website.

Date

24. October 2017 | 15:04

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New route through Nuptse South Face

The “Mustache Gang”: Degoulet, Guigonnet, Millerioux (from l. to r.)

The “Mustache Gang” has struck in Nepal. The French climbers Helias Millerioux, Frederic Degoulet and Benjamin Guigonnet, who call themselves “Le Gang des Mustaches”, opened in Alpine style a new route through the South Face of Nuptse. “Jippie, it’s done! They did it!”, the Base Camp team of the trio posted yesterday on Facebook, adding that the three climbers had reached the 7,742-meter-high summit. They did not mean the 7861-meter high Nuptse I, but Nuptse Nup II, also called Nuptse Northwest. Helias, Frederic and Benjamin had entered their route last Friday. After six nights in the wall they reached the highest point.

Date

20. October 2017 | 15:18

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High up in the Lhotse South Face

Lhotse South Face

The most exciting eight-thousander expedition this fall is in the probably decisive phase. According to the Kathmandu-based newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, the South Korean Sung Taek Hong and the Spaniard Jorge Egocheaga reached Camp IV at 8,250 meters on the Lhotse South Face on Wednesday. They planned to pitch another camp at 8,400 meters before heading to the highest point at 8,516 meters. (see the video below).

Date

20. October 2017 | 11:04

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Kobusch, first ascender of Nangpai Gosum II: “Very difficult”

Kobusch’s route on Nangpai Gosum II

“The feeling was more than overwhelming to stand in a place that no one ever entered before me,” writes Jost Kobusch about his first ascent of the 7296-meter-high Nangpai Gosum II in the east of Nepal. As reported, the 25-year-old German had scaled the till then fourth-highest unclimbed mountain on earth two weeks ago. “Such ascents are still pure, real alpinism,” Jost writes to me. “This is exactly the direction I want to take – because a solo on a route with other climbers is not a real solo. I would like to enjoy alpinism in its purest form. For me, this is the maximum of minimalist mountaineering.” In the meantime, Kobusch has also given details of his route, which he graded to me as “TD”, which means “very difficult” (in the International French Adjectival System (IFAS) ,TD stands for “Tres Difficile”, with sustained snow and ice at an angle of 65-80 degrees and rock climbing at grade V and VI). He was en route with a very small team: the Nepali cook Ngima, kitchen helper Phurba and cameraman Raphael Schardt, who, according to Jost, only joined him once on the way to the Advanced Basce Camp (ABC) at the beginning of the expedition, later only filming with a large telephoto lens from the Base Camp.

Date

17. October 2017 | 15:17

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Honnold: “The biggest inspiration in my whole life”

Alex Honnold

At the latest since today, Alex Honnold knows what is the opposite of free solo: The “Press Walk” of the International Mountain Summit. The 32-year-old can neither move freely nor is he alone. On the Plose, the home mountain of Bressanone in South Tyrol, about sixty reporters, camera men and photographers are bustling around the American top climber. “Crazy,” says the 32-year-old with a smile in his face. Since 3 June, his name resounds not only throughout insiders of the climbing scene but worldwide. On that day he pushed into a new dimension. Alex succeeded the first free solo – means climbing alone and without any rope – through the legendary 900-meter-high granite wall of El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley. He climbed via the route “Freerider”, which had been opened by Alexander Huber in 1995 and had been free climbed for the first time by Alexander and his brother Thomas in 1998. For comparison, the ascent with ropes for belaying had taken the Huber brothers more than 15 hours.

Modern nomad

Up for every fun

Alex Honnold does not correspond to the stereotype of an extreme climber. He wears his hair short, does not drink alcohol, does not smoke and is a vegetarian. For many years he has been living as a modern nomad, quite modest in a mobile home which he uses to drive from rock wall to rock wall. For five years, he has been supporting with his foundation environmental projects around the world. Despite his coup on the El Capitan, he does not show any airs and graces.

Already during the ascent to the mountain restaurant Rossalm, where the organizers of the IMS have scheduled a press conference with Honnold, I manage to ask Alex some questions – according to the motto “walk and talk”. 😉

Alexander and Thomas Huber as well as Tommy Caldwell compared your free solo on El Capitan with the first moon landing. How did you personally feel after having completed your project?

Date

14. October 2017 | 18:07

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The eternal rascal

Peter Habeler

Even aged 75, he appears to be a rascal. Good-humored, always good for a joke, the laugh lines on his face – and fit as a fiddle. “Climbing is my fountain of youth,” says Peter Habeler. The Tyrolean from the Zillertal is still climbing through steep walls. Shortly before his big birthday even through the Eiger North Face, along with David Lama, in winter. “It was something very special for me,” Peter tells me as we hike below the peaks of the Geisler group in the Villnöss Valley in the South Tyrolean Dolomites. “Many years ago, I discovered David’s talent when he did his first climbing as a little boy in my alpine school in the Zillertal. I saw that he would become a great climber.” Today Lama is one of the best climbers in the world. “When I climbed behind him in the Eiger North Face and watched how easily and smoothly he mastered even the most difficult passages, I felt like I was back in time when I myself was still young,” says Peter.

Date

14. October 2017 | 0:41

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Himalayan Database soon for free

Tobias Pantel, Billi Bierling, Jeevan Shrestha und Rodolphe Popier (from l. to r.)

The Himalayan Database is something like the electronic Bible of Expedition Mountaineering in Nepal. For those who are dealing with the highest mountains in the world, there is simply no way around this extensive collection of data. Countless times I’ve asked for Billi Bierling when I wanted to check important details of ascents. The 50-year-old German journalist and climber has been working for the Himalayan Database since 2004. In 2016 she replaced the legendary chronicler Elizabeth Hawley, who is now 93 years old, as the head of the database. In the 1960s Miss Hawley had begun to file the expeditions in Nepal. Her archive was the base of the Himalayan Database, which has been available electronically since 2004. Till now a CD ROM had to be bought. This will change soon. Then the database will be available to everyone for free.

Date

12. October 2017 | 10:32

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Hayden Kennedy is dead

Hayden Kennedy (1990-2017)

What a tragic end of one of the best climbers in the world. The American Hayden Kennedy took his own life at the age of 27 years.  On Saturday, Hayden and his partner in life Inge Perkins, like Kennedy an experienced climber and skier, had been on a ski tour on Imp Peak in the US state of Montana. They were caught by an avalanche. Perkins was fully buried by the snow masses, rescuers recovered the 23-year-old dead. Kennedy, who was partially buried, survived. On Sunday he committed suicide.

Date

11. October 2017 | 10:29

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Kobusch succeeds first ascent of Nangpai Gosum II

Kobusch on top of Nangpai Gosum II

A blank spot less on the map of the highest mountains: According to his own words, the 24-year-old German climber Jost Kobusch made the first ascent of the 7,296-meter-high Nangpai Gosum II. The mountain, till then the fourth highest unclimbed peak of the world, is located in the border area between Nepal and China, not far from the eight-thousander Cho Oyu. The slightly higher Nangpai Gosum I (7,351 meters) is also known as Jasemba, in Nepal it is officially called Pasang Lhamu Chuli, named after the first Nepali woman on Mount Everest. “I’ve been climbing very fast. Shortly below the summit it got once again exhausting because there was a lot of deep snow,” Jost said in a podcast published on his website. “Standing up there was liberating. All these pains, the efforts before, suddenly subsided. I think I had not really believed that it would work.”

Date

10. October 2017 | 15:35

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First ascent of Burke Khang – without Burke

Burke Khang

The very big point was missing. The 6,942-meter-high Burke Khang was successfully first climbed – but Bill Burke, the man after whom the mountain in the Gokyo Valley near Mount Everest is named, was not at the top. According to the Nepali expedition operator Asian Trekking, the Northern Irishman Noel Hanna and the Sherpas Naga Dorje Sherpa, Pemba Tshering Sherpa and Samden Bhote reached the summit of Burke Khang on Thursday. Bill had ascended up to Camp 1 but had decided not to climb higher, it said. Bummer! He would have deserved to be among the first ascenders, just only because of his persistance. For the fourth time – after in fall 2015 and 2016 and in spring 2017 – the 75-year-old American had traveled to Burke Khang. The previous attempts had failed due to bad weather or dangerous conditions on the mountain.

Date

8. October 2017 | 12:23

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