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with Stefan Nestler

Russell Brice: “At last”

Russell Brice

Russell Brice

Russell Brice breathes out. “At last”, the 62-year-old New Zealander, head of the expedition operator Himalayan Experience, replies to my question on what he thinks about the planned new route through the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest. “We have been asking the SPCC (Note: The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Comitee is responsible for the route through the icefall.) to put the route more central since 2012. Now at last they have listened to the foreign operators instead of the local Sherpas who asked for the route to be moved so as they could travel faster … but not so safely.” Brice doesn’t expect that the new route will take the clients as much time as SPCC president Ang Dorjee Sherpa estimates: “It will take only about one hour longer, not three to four hours. You see there are not many people around these days who have been this way. But I have.”

Date

20. February 2015 | 11:37

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Discussions about new Everest route

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

No matter how likely something seems to be, things may turn out quite differently. For many years, most climbers on the Nepalese side of Everest thought that the route through the Khumbu Icefall, which led – seen from below – along the left hand side directly below the West Shoulder, was safe. Until 18 April 2014 when a huge ice avalanche released and killed 16 Nepalis. The Sherpas revolted, the season was over before it had begun. This spring, the route is to be relocated further away from the West Shoulder, about 40 meters to the centre of the Icefall. Ang Dorjee Sherpa, president of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Commitee (SPCC), which is responsible for the route, said to the Himalayan Times, he expected that the clients need three to four hours more to reach Camp 1. Although the new route is not as risky as the old one, it is more difficult, says Ang Dorjee. Not all are convinced that this is the last word.

Date

19. February 2015 | 18:24

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The best ager is on the road again

Carlos Soria

Carlos Soria

If someone is a “best ager“ in mountaineering, then Carlos Soria. The Spaniard really got cracking beyond 50. At the age of 51 Carlos summited Nanga Parbat, his first eight-thousander. He is now 76 (!) years old and has scaled eleven of the world’s 14 highest mountains. This senior is simply unstoppable. If everything happens as he imagines, not later than in spring 2016 Soria could complete his collection and thus – then aged 77 – become the oldest mountaineer who stood on all 14 eight-thousanders. So far, this “record” is held by Polish climber Piotr Pustelnik, who scaled his last eight-thousander in 2010 at the age of 58. This spring, Carlos Soria set out to climb two huge mountains in Nepal: the 8091-meter-high Annapurna and, not far away, the 8167-meter-high Dhaulagiri. If he is able to summit both, only the 8027-meter-high Shishapangma in Tibet would be missing in his collection. Carlos is already in Nepal.

Date

19. February 2015 | 10:29

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Kaltenbrunner: “All Everest parties around one table!”

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner at the ISPO

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner at the ISPO

It has become quieter around Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. A fact that she actually likes. The 44-year-old Austrian is still a sought-after speaker. So Gerlinde can not complain about a lack of work. But she has enough time to travel around. Without any pressure – that disappeared after she had successfully completed her big project by climbing K 2 in 2011: She was the first and so far only woman in the world who climbed all 14 eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen. Our paths crossed on Mount Everest in 2005, when she tried (in vain) with Ralf Dujmovits and Hirotaka Takeuchi to climb the North Face and I reported about it. In 2010, she reached the summit via the Tibetan normal route. I met Gerlinde at the trade fair ISPO in Munich a week ago and we talked about Everest.

Gerlinde, you climbed Mount Everest as well as the other 13 eight-thousanders without supplemental oxygen. At the moment there are a lot of discussions about what happens on the highest of all mountains, especially because of the avalanche disaster and the subsequent end of all expeditions on the Nepalese side in spring 2014. The Sherpas revolted. Did this conflict boil up and over?

Date

14. February 2015 | 21:15

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Moro plans winter traverse on Manaslu

Manaslu (l.) and Pinnacle East (r.)

Manaslu (l.) and Pinnacle East (r.)

The cat is out of the bag. Simone Moro has revealed his Himalayan winter project: The 47-year-old Italian wants to climb Manaslu in Nepal, with 8,163 meters the eight highest mountain in the world. Not via the normal route, but with the detour via the upstream 7992-meter-high Pinnacle East. The Polish climbers Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer were the first climbers who succeeded in climbing this spectacular traverse in November 1986, i.e. in fall. The first winter ascent of Manaslu – without traverse – was also made by Polish climbers: Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski reached the summit in January 1984. Simone Moro will not travel alone to Manaslu within the next few days.

Date

11. February 2015 | 18:20

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Ueli Steck: “I accept the risk”

Ueli Steck at the ISPO

Ueli Steck at the ISPO

Actually, Ueli Steck only wanted to do an active holiday in Tibet in autumn 2014. The 38-year-old top climber from Switzerland planned to climb the eight-thousander Shishapangma with his wife Nicole via the normal route. It soon became clear that it would not be as easy as it seemed first because there was too much snow on the mountain. “But just sitting around in the base camp, that’s really not my thing”, Ueli told me last week at the trade fair ISPO in Munich. “Thus I accompanied the guys in their summit attempt.” These guys were the German ski mountaineers Benedikt Boehm, Sebastian Haag and Martin Maier and the Italian Andrea Zambaldi. In the summit area, an avalanche descended: Haag and Zambaldi died, Maier survived seriously injured. Only Steck and Boehm were not swept away by the avalanche. Reason enough to talk with Ueli about risk and luck:

Ueli, people say, a cat has nine lives. How many lives do you have?

Date

11. February 2015 | 15:45

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Dujmovits: “I want to make it for myself”

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

His bookmark is still in the book of Everest. Ralf Dujmovits scaled all 14 eight-thousanders, as the only German so far. Only on Mount Everest in 1992, Ralf used bottled oxygen – something that the 53-year-old sees as a blemish by today. This spring, Ralf wants to travel to the highest mountain in the world for the already seventh time, for the fourth time to the Tibetan north side. Last year Dujmovits reached there an altitude of 8,300 meters on the northeast ridge. At that time he got angry about his own mistakes. And so Ralf’s repeatedly announced “definitely last” attempt on Everest became once again just his most recent try. This year, he wants to climb in a team with the Canadian Nancy Hansen. I met Ralf at the trade fair ISPO in Munich and asked him about his Everest plans:

Ralf and Mount Everest, a never ending story?

Date

9. February 2015 | 22:03

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Moro: “I trusted them to succeed“

 

On the Rupal side (© David Goettler/The North Face)

On the Rupal side (© David Goettler/The North Face)

Over an out. The Russian winter expedition on Nanga Parbat is finished. Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval decided to go home. “Today is exactly the 45th day since we left St. Petersburg, and, unfortunately, the time for our expedition runs to the end. The mountain is clear at last, for the first time in two weeks, but there’re still snow flags on the top due to the strong wind“, the four climbers told Russianclimb via SMS. “We pack Base Camp and are going down.“ A few days ago, they had reached Camp 4 at 7,150 meters on the Rupal (south) side of the mountain, but had been forced back by storm and cold. Thus, only the climbers on the Diamir (north) side are staying on Nanga Parbat.

Date

6. February 2015 | 17:55

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Moody Nanga Parbat

The Rupal face of Nanga Parbat

The Rupal face of Nanga Parbat

If mountains really have a soul, Nanga Parbat obviously suffers from a full-blown winter depression. Year after year the eight-thousander in Pakistan rebuffs climbers who try to climb it first in the cold season. Almost as if to say: “Get off my back! If you bother me, see where that will get you! “ Now, this winter’s second summit attempt also failed. On the Rupal side, the south side of the mountain, Russians Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval had to turn around from Camp 4 at 7150 meters. The four climbers from St. Petersburg had tried to sit a snow storm out, with wind speeds of 100 km/h. No chance.

Date

4. February 2015 | 15:14

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Sought: Himalayan Mountain Hut

Poster of the competition

Poster of the competition

As in the Alps, mountaineers in the Himalayas shall soon find shelter in mountain huts. Not in simple wooden or metal sheds. The new huts shall be functional, low maintenance, not too expensive, but, please, also nice and comfortable. The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), in cooperation with the Nepalese development programme Samarth, announced a competition for architects and designers to find “an innovative high altitude accommodation unit which will be the first of its kind ever to be established in Nepal”.

Date

29. January 2015 | 16:26

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Piolet d’Or for living legend Chris Bonington

Sir Chris Bonington

Sir Chris Bonington

No doubt, he fully deserves this honour. When the most remarkable ascents in 2014 will be awarded with the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar” for mountaineers, in Chamonix and Courmayeur from 9 to 12 April, Sir Chris Bonington will be hounoured with the “Prix Walter Bonatti” for his really outstanding mountaineering career. The prize is awared for the seventh time. The previous prizewinners from 2009 onwards were Walter Bonatti, Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott, Robert Paragot, Kurt Diemberger and John Roskelley. “Chris Boningtons achievements have been significant in both the Alps and Himalaya”, the organizers of Piolet d’Or said. “An outstanding and passionate climber.”

Date

27. January 2015 | 11:58

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She already felt the summit

Rupal side of Nanga Parbat (© The North Face)

Rupal side of Nanga Parbat (© The North Face)

“He who says patience, says courage, endurance, strength”, Baroness Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach once wrote. Of course the Austrian writer, who lived from 1830 to 1913, meant it generally. But with her words she described almost exactly the characteristics that are needed to climb an eight-thousander such as Nanga Parbat in winter. After more than two dozen unsuccessful winter expeditions, courageous, persistant and strong climbers try again to scale the ninth highest mountain on earth this winter. Currently, the attempt of the Russians Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval on the Rupal side, the south side of Nanga Parbat, seems to be the most promising try.

Date

26. January 2015 | 19:35

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f (Expedition Leader) = Authority + Open Ear

Expedition leader: not an easy task

Expedition leader: not an easy task

Cuddle bear or dictator – expedition leaders can be everything between these poles, always looking for the “golden way” to maximum success. How much discussion is useful, how much “Period!” necessary? In the USA, researchers now published an interesting study on the influence of hierarchy on the outcome of expeditions. They interviewed climbers from 27 countries and evaluated the data from a total of 5104 Himalayan expeditions from 1905 until 2012. Their findings: “Hierarchy both elevated and killed in the Himalayas: Expeditions from more hierarchical countries had more climbers reach the summit, but also more climbers die along the way.” Means: Strong hierarchy can increase both summit and fatality rates. On the one hand hierarchy can – due to the lack of permanent discussion – create an atmosphere leading to greater determination. On the other hand it can inhibit low-ranking team members from expressing their doubts, thus increasing the risks for the group. But how can an expedition leader find the right balance? I asked the researchers.

Date

22. January 2015 | 16:08

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Pathetic? No way!

Maya Sherpa (in the background Mount Everest)

Maya Sherpa (in the background Mount Everest)

Nepal needs strong women like Maya Sherpa. “With our women expedition project we want to inspire women doing what we really are capable of even after being married and having children”, the 36-year-old climber writes to me. In July 2014, she scaled the 8611-meter-high K 2 with Dawa Yangzum Sherpa and Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita. They were the first female climbers from Nepal on top of the second highest mountain in the world. A week and a half ago, I introduced the trio’s new project in my blog: the planned ascent of Kangchenjunga next spring. I got Maya’s answers to my questions concerning their plans a few days after the article had gone online.

Date

20. January 2015 | 17:24

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Turning back 300 meters below the summit

Nanga Parbat (seen from Diamir basecamp)

Nanga Parbat (seen from Diamir basecamp)

Does Nanga Parbat show its teeth again? More than 20 winter expeditions already failed on the 8125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan. Beside K 2, Nanga Parbat is the only eight-thousander which has still not been scaled in winter. That’s why the “Naked Mountain” has been an attractive destination for professional mountaineers over the past years. The Polish climber Tomasz called Tomek Mackiewicz is trying to climb the  ninth highest mountain on earth for the fifth consecutive year. After having reached an altitude of about 7200 meters with the German mountaineer David Goettler on the south side of the mountain (Rupal side) last year, Tomek is now climbing on the northwest side (Diamir side). Today he and the Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol returned safely from a summit attempt to base camp.

Date

19. January 2015 | 16:09

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