She looks younger than she really is (53 years) and her eyes twinkle when she is talking about climbing. 20 years ago Catherine Destivelle of France was a star of the climbing scene: Inter alia she soloed the classical north faces of Eiger, Matterhorn and Grand Jorasses, all of them in winter. She free-climbed the more than 6000-meter-high Nameless Tower in the Karakoram. (If you want to get an impression of her style of climbing, watch the amazing video below!) After the birth of her son Victor in 1997 she scaled down her climbing activities. I talked to Catherine on a hike during the International Mountain Summit (IMS) in Brixen in South Tyrol.
Catherine, are you still climbing?
Yes, less, but I’m still climbing. I like it. When I have time or holiday, I do it several times a week.
When you did your great climbs, in the 1980s and beginning of the 90s, you were a pioneer of women climbing. What has changed since then?
I think it’s a normal evolution. Women climbers of today are better than in our times, because they are training since their youth. Climbing has become a real sport. In my day it just had started to be a sport, but wasn’t really.
Date24. October 2013 | 14:10
Nepal has to be patient for about one more year. At its general assembly in Pontresina in Switzerland the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) has not yet decided whether it will recognize additional 8000-meter-peaks or not. According to the Nepal Mountaineering Association a UIAA commission had named six side peaks that could be accepted as prominent peaks with a unique identification: Kanchenjunga West-Peak (alias Yalung Kang, 8505 m), Central-Peak (8473 m) and South-Peak (8476 m), Lhotse Central-Peak (8410 m) and Shar (8382 m), Broad Peak Central (8011 m). “Both Nepal and China Mountaineering Association delegates welcome and fully support the UIAA initiation”, Nepalese Ang Tshering Sherpa, Honorary member of UIAA, wrote to me after his return from Switzerland. “Also Pakistan Alpine Club and Indian Mountaineering Foundation delegates were very positive but need more time to get approval from their association’s annual general meeting which will be held end of Dec 2013 or January 2014.”
Date12. October 2013 | 18:52
Ueli did it. Just what exactly? The Swiss climber Ueli Steck is keeping us in suspense after his adventure on Annapurna. “Successful mission!”, is said on his homepage. “Don (Bowie) and Ueli are on the way to Pokhara. Updates will follow in the coming days.” Quite honestly, if I could I would run to meet them on their trekking. I’m bursting with curiosity. Has Ueli really climbed solo via a direct route through the South Face to the 8091-meter-high summit of Annapurna? Is the rumor true that the Swiss, who celebrated his 37th birthday a week ago, needed only 28 hours to climb up and down?
Date11. October 2013 | 21:18
Better safe than sorry, this also applies for public relations. Three years ago the IPCC slipped on the ice of the Himalayan glaciers. In its last report on climate change that was published in 2007 it was predicted that all Himalayan glaciers would have disappeared until 2035. In 2010 the IPCC had to concede tranposed digits, the right year in the prediction should have been 2350. There was a flood of criticism. No wonder that in the summary of the new climate report the word “Himalaya” is missing. The IPCC only announced that “over the last two decades (…) glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide”. Also in the full report, which is more than 2,000 pages long, the IPCC is only making cautious predictions for the Himalayas.
Date2. October 2013 | 10:33
The Olympic flame has to freeze. Not yet in Greece, where it will be inflamed for the Winter Games of Sochi 2014 at the ancient sites of Olympia on 6th October, but very soon after arriving in Russia. Mid of October a nuclear icebreaker will bring the torch to the North Pole. This and other stations of the torch would “showcase the beauty of Russia to Russians and to the rest of the world”, said Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee. According to Russia’s reading the North Pole seems already to be incorporated – even if under international law it is still disputed whether or which of the Arctic nations has the right to exploit the huge oil and gas reserves that are presumed below the North Pole.
Date19. September 2013 | 17:41
My gut feeling was right: Ueli Steck has actually returned to the Himalayas in order to climb again an 8000er – four and a half months after the unfortunate Sherpa attack against him, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith in Camp 2 on Mount Everest. The 36-year-old top climber from Switzerland travelled to Kathmandu yesterday. His destination: the South Wall of the 8091-metre-high Annapurna. “To walk through life in a comfortable way is still not my goal”, Ueli writes on his website. “This is why I want to try to climb Annapurna a third time. I would like to implement my dreams and visions into reality. Annapurna is one of them.” In 2007, he had narrowly escaped death on this mountain.
Date17. September 2013 | 15:43
The clouds were hanging low, it was cool. Not exactly the perfect weather to tempt curious or spontaneous people to climb up to over 3,000 metre to the Koednitzkees, a glacier below the summit of Grossglockner, the highest mountain of Austria. On Saturday – as reported here – the “longest rope team of the world” should be formed there. A notary certified the number of participants of the action which in case of success should find its place in the Guinness Book of Records. Despite the bad weather 193 mountain friends roped up to a length of 600 metres. “The exercise has been successful,” said Peter Ladstätter, district head of the mountain rescue in Osttirol (Eastern Tyrol) who had organized the event.
Date16. September 2013 | 15:33
TagsAlps, glacier, Grossglockner, Guinness Book of Records, Koednitzkees, mountain rescue, rope team
Unless a climatic miracle happens, Sweden’s highest peak will soon be only the number two in the country. Scientists of the University of Stockholm measured that in August the South Summit of Kebnekaise in Lapland was only 2099 meters high, which is a record low. The summit is covered by a small glacier. In the past 18 years this ice cap has melted by about a meter per year on average. “It’s a clear trend”, says geographer Gunhild Rosqvist. Climate change was to blame: “There is no doubt that the melting process is caused by the warmer weather.”
Date13. September 2013 | 15:58
Tagsclimate chance, glacial melt, Gunhild Rosqvist, highest mountain, Kebnekaise, Sweden, University of Stockholm
The longest rope team of the world. That is the goal of an action on Grossglockner, which, if it works, will find its place in the Guinness Book of Records. On Saturday at 2 p.m. mountain rescuers of Osttirol (Eastern Tyrol) will rope up as many climbers as possible on the Koednitzkees, a glacier below the highest peak of Austria. A notary is commissioned by the Guinness Book of Records to count the participants. Afterwards the Austrian artist Dieter Remler will make a performance, according to the motto: “As free as an eagle, with a person’s mind”. This is just one of several actions in Osttirol during this weekend which is dedicated to safety in the mountains . I contacted Peter Ladstaetter, district head of mountain rescue in Osttirol. He has organized the action on the Koednitzkees .
Peter, what is the message of forming the longest rope team of the world?
Our key message is: It must be a standard to take a rope before you enter or cross a glacier. Unfortunately many do not know that glacial ice is always moving and therefore also crevasses are “walking”. There are many falls which only end without serious consequences – in most cases even unhurt – because the mountaineers are roped up.
Date12. September 2013 | 14:24
Tagsglacier, Grossglockner, Guinness Book of Records, Ködnitzkees, longest rope team of the world, mountain rescue, Osttirol
Many are familiar with the view of Makalu, without being aware of it. On pictures taken from the summit of Mount Everest in direction of the Southeast Ridge you see in the background the shapely fifth highest mountain on earth. Just a few kilometres linear distance are lying between the two 8000ers, but actually they are worlds apart. This spring the headlines concerning Everest were overturning: first the brawl in Camp 2, then the 60-year-anniversary of the first ascent. Because of this I lost sight of an expedition of four German and a Swiss climber to Makalu.
Siegrist left expedition
David Göttler, Michael Waerthl, Hans Mitterer, Daniel Bartsch and Stephan Siegrist wanted to climb the mountain in Alpine style via the challenging west pillar. Siegrist had to cancel the expedition because he got severe headaches and vision disorders, possibly due to a skull fracture that he had a few years earlier. The other four abandoned their original plan and ascended via the normal route. Waerthl returned because of icy fingers about 200 metres below the summit. The other three climbers reached the highest point at 8485 metres.
Date6. August 2013 | 17:43
Tagsbrawl, Daniel Bartsch, David Goettler, Makalu, Michael Waerth, Mount Everest, Sherpas, Stephan Siegrist
Hinterstoisser Traverse, Swallows Nest, Death Bivouac. When I was a boy of ten I sat on holidays in Grindelwald using my binoculars to study the Eiger North Face. I had devoured “The White Spider”, Heinrich Harrer’s well-known book. I was so fascinated that I got up at night and looked on the route for bivouac lights. On this Wednesday 75 years ago the Eiger North Face was climbed successfully for the first time. The four pioneers of 1938 are dead. The last of the German-Austrian team who died was Harrer in 2006.
I ring Stephan Siegrist up. The 40-year-old mountaineer from Switzerland has a special relationship to the Eiger North Face. He has already climbed the wall 29 times, opened two new extremely hard routes together with his compatriot Ueli Steck – and climbed on the trails of the quartet of 1938.
Stephan, 75 years ago the Germans Anderl Heckmair and Ludwig Vörg and the two Austrians Heinrich Harrer and Fritz Kasparek climbed the Eiger North Wall for the first time. What do think about their performance?
For me it’s still one of the greatest things that have ever been made in the Alps. You have to imagine that the strain was very great. They knew that many climbers before had died in the wall. And climbing it with the material of these former days was truly heroic.
Date23. July 2013 | 19:07
It has gotten dark. For hours we have been racing with our minibus down the Karakoram Highway to the north. Time to stretch our legs. Near the town of Chilas we stop at a tea room. Some long-bearded men are sitting in front. We start talking. Smalltalk: “How are you?” “Where are you from, where are you going?” Suddenly my mountain guide is gesticulating wildly. I shall get back into our bus quickly. Inside I ask him why he was so excited. “Bad men, dangerous!”, answers my Pakistani companion. Until now I think that he overreacted then, in the summer of 2004. But I remembered this episode again when I was informed about the murder attack on eleven climbers on Nanga Parbat last weekend.
Date27. June 2013 | 17:14
The Taliban attack on the basecamp at the Diamir side of Nanga parbat has left even Pakistan experts stunned. „We have been caught cold“, Eberhard Andres told me. He is working for the German trekking agency Hauser Exkursionen and is responsible for trips to Pakistan. „It was really the first time that something like this has happened.“ Last weekend Taliban terrorists had attacked the Diamir basecamp and killed eleven climbers: three Chinese, three Ukrainians, two Slovaks, a Lithuanian, a Nepalese and a Pakistani. The attack was of „a completely new quality“, Dominik Müller, head of the agency Amical Alpin, said to me. Swiss expedition organizer Kari Kobler is shocked as well: „We knew that Pakistan can be a dangerous place. But not in the north!“ All of them expect negative consequences for mountain tourism in Pakistan, which had just began to get back on its feet after lean years as a result of the tense political situation.
Date25. June 2013 | 11:30
“Killer Mountain” is written on the sign on Karakoram Highway, where you can take a look at the majestic 8000er Nanga Parbat. Actually the sign recalls the numerous tragedies on the “Naked Mountain” in the last century, for example in 1937, when 16 members of a German expedition died in an avalanche. But now the sign has received a new, oppressive meaning. A hit squad penetrated to the base camp on the Diamir side of Nanga Parbat and shot at least ten people. The Pakistani government said the victims were five climbers from Ukraine, four Chinese and a Pakistani guide.
Date23. June 2013 | 17:39
A permit for a video interview broadcasted live from the summit of Mount Everest via smartphone costs about $ 2000. We know that since this spring, when the Briton Daniel Hughes did it this way answering questions of the BBC– without permission, as it turned out later. The Nepalese Tourism Ministry was not amused. Hughes could be banned from obtaining climbing permits for ten years or banned from entering the country for five years. But I’m sure that meanwhile both parties have come to an amicable agreement on a special Everest smartphone tariff. How fortunate that I call my old friend Chomolungma from only 50 metres above sea level. Quite legally, only the NSA is listening too. It takes me three attempts to be successful:
Namasté, Chomo! Stefan is calling! Where the hell have you been?
Also Namasté! I was taking a snow shower. Wonderful, this monsoon!
Did you really need a shower after this spring season?
Joker, are you living behind the moon?
Date19. June 2013 | 17:35