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with Stefan Nestler

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Ceremony at Bhaktapur

Ceremony at Bhaktapur

When can you call it normality again after a state of emergency? Obviously it depends on the way of perception. “Nepal is safe, don’t worry! This is our clear message for today”, said Bhesh Narayan Dahal, head of the governmental department that is responsible for the preservation of the world heritage sites of Nepal, at the beginning of the week. Temples in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, which had been badly damaged by the earthquake on 25 April, were re-opened with a ceremony. But even the government seems to feel uneasy about it.

Date

17. June 2015 | 15:39

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Don Bowie: “Still villages in Nepal with almost no aid”

Don Bowie

Don Bowie

He has just stayed there – to help. When the devastating earthquake hit Nepal on 25 April, the Canadian climber Don Bowie was in Base Camp at the foot of Annapurna. For ten years, Don is climbing on eight-thousanders. By now he has scaled three of them, all without supplementary oxygen: K 2 (in 2007), Gasherbrum I (2010) and Cho Oyu (2011). After the tremors, the 46-year-old decided spontaneously to cancel the expedition and to use his skills as high altitude climber and mountain rescuer to help the earthquake victims in remote villages of Nepal. Since then Don is almost non-stop on the road in the mountains of the Himalayan state. On the Internet, he is asking for donations to finance his relief campaign. I contacted Don Bowie in Nepal.

Don, where are you staying right now?

I am based out of Kathmandu but I am now working in many districts – Gorkha, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Sindhulpachowk, Dhading, and Dolakha.

Date

14. June 2015 | 10:00

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Tommy Caldwell: “My heart is in Yosemite”

Tommy Caldwell in Chamonix

Tommy Caldwell in Chamonix

Tommy Caldwell is on a roll. The 36-year-old American and his compatriot Alex Honnold won this year’s Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar for climbers”, for their success in completing the so called “Fitz Traverse” in Patagonia, a more than five kilometers long climbing route over seven summits and some razor sharp ridges. And Tommy is a prime candidate for next year’s award too. Last January he and Kevin Jorgeson free-climbed for the first time the extremely difficult about 900-meter-high route Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite – a real milestone in big wall climbing. I talked to Tommy about both climbs.

Tommy, you and Alex Honnold were awarded the Piolet d’Or for succeeding the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia. How did you experience this outstanding climb?

Date

12. June 2015 | 15:30

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82 four-thousanders in 80 days

Michi Wohlleben (l.) and Ueli Steck

Michi Wohlleben (l.) and Ueli Steck

They are on the way. The two top climbers Ueli Steck from Switzerland and Michi Wohlleben from Germany have now scaled the first of the 82 four-thousanders of the Alps, the 4,048-meter-high Piz Bernina in Switzerland. At 10 a.m. they reached the summit, after they had spent the night at the Tschierva Hut at 2,573 meters above sea level. Within just 80 days, the 38-year-old Ueli and the 24-year-old Michi want to climb all four-thousanders of the Alps, which are located in Switzerland, Italy and France – if possible, not on the normal but on more demanding routes.

Date

11. June 2015 | 14:36

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Taxes on relief goods – what’s the point of that?

More help is needed in Nepal - as here in the district Sindhubalchowk

More help is needed in Nepal – as here in the district Sindhubalchowk

There is considerable indignation. Since British media reported that the Nepalese government put an income tax of 15 to 30 per cent on relief goods for earthquake victims, the authorities in Kathmandu are subjected to sharp criticism in the social networks. The guideline that tents and tarpaulin were custom free had expired on 3 June. A week ago, government officials had announced that relief goods could be still imported without paying taxes, but only if they would then be distributed by governmental organizations. “An organization which wants to distribute imported goods itself has to pay full customs duty”, said Surya Sedai of the Department of Customs. “This is to minimize the risk of smuggling.” Some international organizations already complained about harassment. On the internet, votes are collected for a petition to Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to “stop levying taxes on materials imported to aid sufferers of the Nepalese earthquakes”. I talked about the topic with German aid organizations.

Date

10. June 2015 | 17:03

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Trailer of “Everest” with donation appeal

Scene in the movie "Everest"

Scene in the movie “Everest”

Good mountaineering movies are few and far between. They often snatch effects, are unrealistic or just cheesy. Let’s see if the film “Everest” will be a laudable exception. Now the first official trailer of the movie has been released (see below). Laudably, the Universal Studios and the film crew appeal for donations to the earthquake victims in Nepal in the closing credits of the trailer.  There is no such appeal in the German version – a pity! The movie “Everest” will start in the cinemas in September. It tells the story of the Everest accident in 1996, when eight members of commercial expeditions died in a storm in the summit area. Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” about the events on 10 and 11 May 1996, was an international bestseller and triggered a discussion about commercial climbing on Everest. There are many Hollywood stars in the new Everest film.

From Gyllenhall to Knightley

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley

Jake Gyllenhaal (known i.a. from the movie “Brokeback Mountain”) plays US mountain guide Scott Fischer, who died in the storm as well as New Zealand guide Rob Hall, who is portrayed in the film by Jason Clarke (“The Great Gatsby”). Josh Brolin (“True Grit”) plays the US client Beck Weathers, who miraculously survived the storm night outdoors but suffered from severe frostbite. There are also top actresses for the female roles. Robin Wright (“Forrest Gump”) plays Weathers’ wife Peach. Keira Knightley  (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) takes on the role of Rob Hall’s pregnant wife Jan who was speaking via satellite phone with her dying man on Everest.

Riegler brothers as doubles

The mountain scenes were filmed earlier this year in Val Senales in South Tyrol. The shooting lasted five weeks. The “Everest Base Camp” of the film was on the glacier Hochjochferner, 3000 meters high. “For other shootings the stars are picked up by limousines. Here they went by glacier lifts or snowcats”, said producer Nicky Kentish Barnes. “The stars fought bravely.” But they had not to become extreme mountaineers. Eleven climbers had been engaged to double the actors in snow and ice, including the two South Tyrolean extreme climbing brothers Florian and Martin Riegler. They were not allowed to say which actors they doubled.  The climbing brothers already had movie experience. In 2012 they played in the film “Messner”: Martin, born in 1980, took on the role of Reinhold Messner, the two years younger Florian played Guenter Messner, who lost his life on Nanga Parbat in 1970.

Date

5. June 2015 | 17:21

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Nepal hopes for comeback in fall

Manaslu, "Mountain of the Spirit"

Manaslu, “Mountain of the Spirit”

“Come back! So that Nepal can make a comeback.” So you could overwrite the appeals of those who are living from tourism in Nepal or have to do with it. The trekking and expedition operators from abroad send a signal that they want to realize most of their trips that they had planned for the post-monsoon season before the earthquake hit the country on 25 April. “The devastating earthquake has shaken the life in Nepal, but slowly life is returning to normality”, Dominik Mueller, head of German operator Amical alpin, wrote.

Date

3. June 2015 | 19:25

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Temba Tsheri Sherpa: “I lost my business”

Temba Tsheri Sherpa

Temba Tsheri Sherpa

Temba Tsheri reached the summit of Mount Everest when he was 16 years and 14 days old. The Nepalese schoolboy from Rolwaling Valley had joined a French team that climbed from the Tibetan north side to the top of Everest. Then, in 2001, he was the youngest climber ever who had scaled the highest mountain on earth. (Nine years later he was followed by 13-year-old American Jordan Romero.) In spring 2000, Temba had tried to climb Everest from the south side. Just below the summit he had had to return, because he had lost too much time because of a traffic jam at the Hillary Step. He had lost five fingers due to frostbite.

Later Temba Tsheri Sherpa studied at the University of Wuhan in China and started his own business, organizing expeditions. When the devastating earthquake struck Nepal on 25 April, he was the managing director of “Dreamers Destination”, an operator based in Kathmandu that had a large expedition group on Everest. The huge avalanche from Pumori, that was triggered by the earthquake and hit Everest Base Camp, killed three of Temba’s foreign clients and two Nepali staff members. I asked the 30-year-old Sherpa about the situation in his homeland after the earthquake.

Temba, what is your personal balance of the earthquake disaster – or in other words: What have you lost?

Date

26. May 2015 | 18:50

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Got off lightly

The town of Beni on Kali Gandaki

The town of Beni on Kali Gandaki

That was close. On Sunday, a landslide (look at the video below) thundered down to the valley of Kali Gandaki and dammed the river, about 50 kilometers northwest of the Nepalese city of Pokhara. More than 20 houses were destroyed. A big flood wave threatened. Many people in the valley – as in Beni, a town of 20,000 inhabitants nine kilometers downriver – spent the night outside their homes. The largest hydropower plant in Nepal, about 40 kilometers south, was run down.

Date

25. May 2015 | 13:28

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Nepal is calling, but who will come?

Piles of rubble where Langtang Village was previously

Piles of rubble where Langtang Village was

About 100 seconds were enough to transform Nepal from a dreamland to a nightmare country. The earthquake on 25 April left a trail of devastation. In some mountain regions the quake triggered avalanches of debris, mud, ice or snow that razed entire villages to the ground. According to the Nepalese government, about 500,000 houses were completely destroyed by the main earthquake and numerous aftershocks. The authorities registered to date more than 8,600 deaths. Five German tourists were among the victims, four others are still missing, a spokesman of the Foreign Office in Berlin confirmed to me today. Many dead, buried deep under piles of rubble, will probably never be recovered. What a tragedy.

More than one million jobs in tourism

“The world must go on”, said Ganga Sagar Pant, CEO of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN).

Date

21. May 2015 | 15:35

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Sad List

Wingsuit_1A whoosh, a green flash and over. A few weeks ago, when I took a break during skiing below the 2,550-meter-high Brevent above Chamonix, a base jumper in a green wingsuit flew, no, he shot over me down to the valley. Like a bat with jet propulsion. I admit that I was fascinated on the one hand. On the other hand, I wondered whether the risk of this extreme sport was really calculable. Depending on the terrain, an unexpected gust of wind from the side can be enough to let the jumper’s life come to a sudden end by crashing against a rock.

Date

19. May 2015 | 20:43

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Dean Potter died in a wingsuit accident

Dean Potter (1972-2015)

Dean Potter (1972-2015)

One of the most extreme among the extreme athletes is dead. The 43-year-old American Dean Potter died in a wingsuit accident in Yosemite National Park, his 29-year- old compatriot Graham Hunt too. Both had jumped from Taft Point, an almost 2,300-meter-high view point on Saturday. Their bodies were found near a notch in a rocky ridgeline on Sunday morning. Obviously both crashed into a rock. Basejumping and wingsuit flights are prohibited in Yosemite National Park.

Date

18. May 2015 | 11:46

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Kobusch: “I thought I would die”

jost kobuschA video of two minutes and 28 seconds has made Jost Kobusch known throughout the world in one go. It shows the huge avalanche from the seven-thousander Pumori that was triggered by the earthquake in Nepal on 25 April and devastated Everest Base Camp. 19 people lost their lives. Jost survived and put his video online on YouTube. It spread like wildfire. The 22-year-old German climber grew up near the town of Bielefeld. Talking to me, he called himself a cosmopolitan: “I travel a lot. Last year, I lived in Kyrgyzstan for six months, in Nepal for two months, in Svalbard for two month and in Japan for a month. There was not much time left for my home address.” At the end of May, Kobusch wants to return to Nepal to help where it is possible. Afterwards he will travel to Kyrgyzstan, to the village of Arslanbob, some 200 kilometers southwest of the capital Bishkek, where he plans to initiate a climbing project with local people. I talked to Jost about his experiences after the earthquake in Nepal.

Jost, what did you think this week when you heard about the new earthquake in Nepal?

I was sitting in front of my computer and received on Facebook a message from a friend who wrote: We survived. Till then I had not heard anything about it. I immediately wrote to all my Nepalese friends whether they were doing well. A friend, who normally replies promptly, did not answer, neither in the evening nor the next morning. I started to get worried. Fortunately, she replied after all. She wrote that they were now living in a tent, because it was safer. That made me a little bit nervous. I’ll soon go to Nepal. I worry about my own safety.

Date

17. May 2015 | 16:07

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New strong earthquake in Nepal

Epicenter of the new quake (© USGS)

Epicenter of the new quake (© USGS)

Nepal does not come to rest. Two and a half weeks after the devastating earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people, the country was hit by another strong quake today. The tremors reached a magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale (for comparison: the earthquake on April 25 had a magnitude of 7.8). According to the US Geological Survey and the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam  the epicenter of the earthquake was located in the Dolakha District, 76 kilometers northeast of the capital Kathmandu. Quite exactly there is Bigu Gompa, one of the largest Buddhist nunneries in Nepal. The nuns had just started to rebuild those parts of the monastery which had been destroyed by the quake two weeks.

Date

12. May 2015 | 15:28

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Breaking news: New earthquake in Nepal

News agencies report, that a strong earthquake shook Nepal on Tuesday, sending people in the capital Kathmandu rushing out on to the streets weeks after a devastating quake killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.4 and struck 68 km west of the town of Namche Bazaar, close to
Mount Everest.

P.S.: For latest news, read my tweets on the right side of my blog!

Date

12. May 2015 | 8:27

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