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with Stefan Nestler

Money for relief flights in Nepal runs short

Earthquake relief by helicopter

Earthquake relief by helicopter

The World Food Programme (WFP) has sounded the alarm. If the “United Nations Humanitarian Air Service” (UNHAS) does not receive additional money, the helicopter relief flights for the earthquake victims in Nepal have to be stopped at the end of August. According to the WFP, which manages the UNHAS, there is a shortfall of more than nine million US dollars to continue the flights as scheduled until the end of October.

Date

14. August 2015 | 16:06

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Deadly accident on Peak Lenin

Pik Lenin

Pik Lenin

“There are no easy mountains and certainly no easy seven-thousanders.” I remember very clearly these words of my Austrian expedition leader Herbert Wolf in 2011, on the 7,246-meter-high Putha Hiunchuli (Dhaulagiri VII) in Nepal. I had to turn around 150 meters below the summit because the weather conditions were deteriorating and I was too late. What Herbert meant, was the fact that the conditions can change even an apparently easy mountain into a difficult and dangerous one.
Commercial expedition operators often call Peak Lenin in Kyrgyzstan an “easy seven-thousander” or an “entry seven-thousander”. On 7 August, a Russian mountain guide died on the 7,134-meter-high mountain in the Pamirs. 

Date

13. August 2015 | 13:51

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Speedy Ueli

Finished! Ueli Steck

Finished! Ueli Steck

Actually, Ueli Steck doesn’t like the nickname “Swiss Machine”. But once again he confirmed his reputation. As a precisely running Swiss watch, the 38-year-old completed his project “82 Summits”– on the double: “Speedy Ueli” scaled all 82 four-thousanders of the Alps in only 61 days, 19 days faster than previously intended. He covered the distance between the mountains using muscle power only: by bike or on foot.

With changing partners

Ueli shortened the descent from the peaks by paragliding where possible. Doing this he early had to say good-bye to his original partner for the project.

Date

12. August 2015 | 22:35

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Children on Everest? Irresponsible!

Windfahne-EverestA twelve-year-old boy on top of Everest? Professor Thomas Kuepper can only shake his head. The occupational health and sport physician at the University Hospital Aachen is an internationally recognized authority on high altitude medicine who is also advising the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA). I had asked him what he thinks about the American Tyler, aged eleven today, who – as reported in my blog – wants to climb Mount Everest next spring. “You should file a charge of child abuse”, Kuepper wrote back disgustedly.

Date

11. August 2015 | 9:59

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Get ready to trek to Everest!

Landslide north of the village of Phakding

Landslide north of the village of Phakding

A cautious all-clear for the Everest Base Camp trail. “None of the major suspension bridges appear to be affected by new geotechnical hazards as a result of the earthquake”, says the report of a group of mountain guides and engineers of the US based agency Miyamoto International which is specialized on earthquake damage. “Much of the trail and most of the rock retaining walls (both above and below) the trail are undamaged. We have observed very little foundation damage to buildings.” At the end of June the team had assessed the condition of the trail from the village of Lukla to Everest Base Camp after the devastating earthquake of 25 April and the aftermaths. 83 percent of the observed lodges and houses were given a green tag, meaning that they were undamaged or hardly affected. And the others?

Date

7. August 2015 | 20:06

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Too young for danger of death

Tyler Armstrong (at the foot of Aconcagua in 2013)

Tyler Armstrong (at the foot of Aconcagua in 2013)

Tyler Armstrong wants to break the record. Or do his parents want him to do it? Or all three? Anyway, the family of the eleven-year-old (!) US-American has announced that Tyler will try to scale Mount Everest in spring 2016. Crazy! Then Tyler would be twelve years and four months old – thus one and a half years younger than his compatriot Jordan Romero, who climbed Everest in 2010 from the Tibetan north side and who since that time is registered in the record lists as the youngest climber ever on the highest mountain on earth.

Date

6. August 2015 | 16:35

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No fall expeditions to Tibet

On Cho Oyu (8,188 m) in Tibet

On Cho Oyu (8,188 m) in Tibet

China is closing Tibet for climbers for the rest of this year. “That is correct”, Dawa Steven Sherpa from the Nepalese expedition operator Asian Trekking confirms to me by email. “The Chinese authorities have decided not to issue permits for climbing in the autumn season in fear of further seismic activity telling that the mountains may be in a dangerous condition. They will issue climbing permits from 2016.” Furthermore, says Dawa Steven, the road that connects Nepal and Tibet, is still closed as it is under repair after the earthquake. “That means that equipment and logistics for the expeditions would not be possible to be transported via Nepal.”

Date

4. August 2015 | 16:34

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Back from Wetshoeland

DudelsackScotland should be renamed into “Wetshoeland”. If it is not raining for once, you still get wet when hiking: from below. Laudably, there is another category in Scottish hiking guides besides the usual ones of difficulty and condition: the “bog factor”. If it is high, you can be sure that your shoes and stockings will be soaking wet after your walk. We had the smart sense to leave another pair of shoes and socks in the car, so that we were always able to start our next hike with dry feet.

Date

1. August 2015 | 23:18

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Matterhorn: ”For climbing okay, but not very special”

Dani Arnold

Dani Arnold

The Matterhorn was his first four-thousander. Dani Arnold was 18 years old when he first scaled the prestige mountain of his home country from the Höernli Hut on the normal route in 2002. Today the 31-year-old is one of the best climbers in Switzerland. Since then, he has been „maybe eight times on top“ of the Matterhorn, Dani writes to me from Pakistan, where he is currently trying to climb first through the North Face of the seven-thousander Latok I, along with the German Huber brothers and the Austrian Mario Walder. In recent years, Arnold made headlines in particular with his speed records. Since 2011, he is holding the record on the Eiger North Face. He climbed the wall on the route of the first ascent in two hours and 28 minutes. Thus Dani was 20 minutes faster than the previous record holder Ueli Steck. This April, he also broke Steck’s speed record on the Matterhorn North Face. It took Arnold an hour and 46 minutes, spending ten minutes less on the wall than Ueli did in 2009. The Matterhorn, 150 years after the first ascent, from the perspective of a professional climber:

Dani, all over the world the Matterhorn is a symbol for Switzerland. How do you see this mountain? Or in other words, what does it mean to you?

Date

13. July 2015 | 8:00

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“Recovery of dead is always sad – not only on the Matterhorn”

Helmi Lerjen

Helmi Lerjen, mountain guide and rescuer

Even the first ascent of the Matterhorn 150 years ago ended in tragedy. Four team members died during the descent from the summit, when a rope ruptured. Since then, more than 500 climbers died on the “Horu”, as the locals call the Matterhorn – more than on any other mountain in Switzerland. Year after year there are between 2,500 and 3,000 summit attempts, also resulting in a lot of work for mountain rescuers. Helmut called “Helmi” Lerjen comes from a true mountain guide family. In the fourth generation, the Lerjens are guiding clients on mountains like the Matterhorn. Helmi, who is living with his wife and daughter in the small village of Täsch, close to Zermatt, has also been working for the Mountain Rescue Zermatt for almost 15 years. The Matterhorn, 150 years after the first ascent, from the perspective of a mountain rescuer:

Dani, all over the world the Matterhorn is a symbol for Switzerland. How do you see this mountain? Or in other words, what does it mean to you?

Date

11. July 2015 | 8:00

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“Three times through Zermatt is too little for the Matterhorn”

Ascent on the Matterhorn (Photo: © Christoph Frutiger)

Ascent on the Matterhorn (Photo: © Christoph Frutiger)

Probably Richard Lehner would find the summit even blindfolded. The veteran mountain guide from Zermatt has reached the highest point of the Matterhorn at 4,478 meters 650 times. This is not the record but nevertheless he would deserve the title “Mr. Matterhorn”. The 76-year-old has passed on his passion for the mountains to his children. Two of his sons are mountain guides too, one is a ski instructor. Richard Lehner is one of 87 listed active mountain guides of the Alpin Center Zermatt, the local Mountain Guides Association. The Matterhorn, 150 years after the first ascent, from the perspective of a mountain guide:

Richard, all over the world the Matterhorn is a symbol for Switzerland. How do you see this mountain? Or in other words, what does it mean to you?

As a mountain guide, I have been working mainly on the Matterhorn. I have scaled the mountain 650 times. I was on top for the last time five years ago. For me, it has always been a beautiful mountain.

650 climbs – how often did you find yourself in critical situations?

Date

9. July 2015 | 8:00

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150 years ago: Triumph and tragedy on the Matterhorn

The normal route via the Hörnli Ridge (© Photopress/Mammut/Robert Boesch)

The normal route via the Hörnli Ridge (© Photopress/Mammut/Robert Boesch)

The clock is running. In a week from now, the countdown clock on the station square in Zermatt will jump to zero. On 14 July, exactly 150 years ago, the Matterhorn was first climbed. No other mountain in Switzerland embodies the country more than this shapely four-thousander. And that’s not just because of a famous chocolate brand that is sold around the world, the bars of which modeled like the Matterhorn. Every year, 2,500 to 3,000 climbers try to reach the 4,478-meter-high summit – most of them via the Hörnli Ridge, the normal route that was also taken by the first ascenders headed by the Englishman Edward Whymper. The Hörnli Hut at 3,260 meters, starting point of most aspirants, has been rebuilt and modernized at great expense. In time for the Matterhorn anniversary it was finished. On the day itself, the mountain should be left in peace. Therefore the Matterhorn will be closed for ascents on 14 July – in order to remember all the people who died on the mountain.

Date

7. July 2015 | 8:00

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Education in tin sheds

Thulosirubari WellblechA return to normal is difficult while you have to live in ruins. “The earthquake has destroyed almost all the houses”, Arjun Gatraj wrote to me from Thulosirubari in Sindhupalchowk District. The village is about 40 kilometers as the crow flies from the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, but is only accessible by a gravel road. “The people are struggling to make ends meet. They live from hand to mouth”, Arjun said. According to him, the devastating 25 April earthquake killed about 75 people in Thulosirubari. Seven of the victims were students of the “Gerlinde and Ralf School”, but they didn’t die at school. “When I heard about the earthquake, I had many familiar people of Nepal in my mind: friends, good friends, and of course the many children in the various schools of the German aid organization Nepalhilfe Beilngries, also the students of the school in Thulosirubari”, says Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. “Then my thought was immediately: Saturday is no school, thank goodness!” With their financial commitment, the extreme climbers Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Ralf Dujmovits had made it possible at all to build the school.

Date

3. July 2015 | 21:01

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150 years ago: First ascent of the Aiguille Verte

Aiguille Verte and Petit Dru (r.)

Aiguille Verte and Petit Dru (r.)

If there really is such a thing as a “Golden Year” of climbing in the Alps, it was 1865: More than sixty important first ascents were made on the highest mountains of France, Switzerland and Austria. The most spectacular was certainly that of the Matterhorn on 14 July. But Jungfrau, Wetterhorn, Breithorn, Ortler and Piz Buin were also first climbed in 1865 – and the Aiguille Verte, today exactly 150 years ago. On 29 June 1865, just after 10 a.m., the Briton Edward Whymper, the Swiss mountain guide Christian Almer from Grindelwald and his colleague Franz Biner from Zermatt reached  the 4122-meter-high summit in the Mont Blanc range. The first ascent of the “Green Needle” was one of the most coveted alpine goals of those days.

Date

29. June 2015 | 14:55

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Huber brothers want to tackle the North Face of Latok I

Thomas and Alexander Huber, Dani Arnold, their Pakistani companion Rasool, Mario Walder, Seppi Dabringer (from right)

Thomas and Alexander Huber, Dani Arnold, their Pakistani companion Rasool, Mario Walder, Seppi Dabringer (from right)

The eternal attraction of Latok I. There is hardly another seven-thousander that has been such a hard nut to crack for top climbers from all over the world for the past decades. The first ascent of the highest of the four Latok summits was made 36 years ago. The Japanese Tsuneo Shigehiro, Sin’e Matsumi and Yu Watanabe succeeded on 19 July 1979. They had climbed up from the south via a buttress to the east East Ridge and from there to the highest point. More famous because notorious are the still unconquered North Ridge – and the also unclimbed North Face. This summer, the “Huberbuam”, the German brothers Alexander and Thomas Huber, will try to master this big wall.

Date

24. June 2015 | 10:56

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