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Alexander Huber: “Climate change is clearly noticeable”

Ogre II and I (r.), they reached the col

Three attempts, then it was over. As reported, Alexander Huber, the Swiss Dani Arnold and the two East Tyroleans Mario Walder and Christian Zenz abandoned their expedition on the 7285-meter-high Ogre I in Pakistan and returned home. They had wanted to reach the summit of the mountain, which so far has been scaled only three times, over the still not mastered East Pillar. I spoke to Alexander, aged 48, the younger of the two Huber brothers, about the failed expedition.

Alexander, you wrote on Facebook that you knew what the mountain wanted to tell you. What was the message?

We set off to the mountain three times and were able to control the situation with maximum risk management three times. But we noticed every time that we were running extremely late. There was only a very short time window to move safely on the mountain. In this case you have to be en route with full steam to get out of the danger zone on time. We did it three times, and it turned out well. But one day it won’t work so well, and then you are in the middle of this extremely dangerous terrain and can not get out.

Date

2. September 2017 | 18:59

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Ogre by night schedule

East Pillar of Ogre I

This summer, there was hardly anything to be gained on Ogre I. “The weather was almost always rather bad,” German top climber Alexander Huber writes on Facebook about his expedition to the 7285-meter-high mountain in Pakistan. The conditions were marginal. “A little old snow from the winter and a lot of fresh snow from early summer in the structure of the snowpack. In addition always high temperatures. Summing up, piles of slush.” The 48-year-old, the younger of the Huber brothers, had wanted to reach the summit along with the East Tyroleans Mario Walder and Christian Zenz and the Swiss Dani Arnold via the still unclimbed East Pillar. Even before departure, Alexander had described Ogre I to me as “one of the most exclusive peaks of our planet, one of the most difficult spots to reach”. This was confirmed: Climbing was only possible after night schedule.

Date

30. August 2017 | 22:16

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Alexander Huber: “Ogre is not a man-eater”

Alexander Huber

Ogre has on the Huber brothers almost the same effect as the singing of the Sirens in Greek mythology: the two German top climbers can hardly escape the call of this fascinating granite giant. Time and again in their long careers Alexander and Thomas Huber have set off to the Ogre massif in the Karakoram or the nearby peaks of the Latok group. In 1999, they failed in their attempt to climb the 7,285-meter-high Ogre I. Thomas succeeded the second ascent of the mountain in 2001, along with the two Swiss Urs Stoecker and Iwan Wolf. The first ascent was made almost 40 years ago, on 13 July 1977 by the British climbers Chris Bonington and Doug Scott. The descent became a drama with a happy end: Scott broke both ankles, Bonington two ribs. Nevertheless, both of them, supported by the other team members, reached the base camp one week after their summit success – one of the great survival stories on the highest mountains in the world.

Easier doing it with friends

Yesterday Alexander Huber set off to Ogre. His team includes the two East Tyroleans Mario Walder and Christian Zenz and the Swiss Dani Arnold. With Dani (and Thomas Senf), Alexander had opened a new route through the Matterhorn North Face last March. With Mario and Christian, he had succeeded  the first ascent of a route on the mountain Ritterknecht in East Greenland in summer 2016. “It’s good to be on the road with partners you know,” says Alexander Huber. His three companions are not only good, competent climbers, but also friends, says the younger of the two Huber brothers. “You have to spend a lot of time together, often moments of tension. The better the human chemistry fits, the better it is.” I talked with the 48-year-old about his expedition before he left for Pakistan.

Alexander, you are heading to Ogre, a seven-thousander in the Karakoram. What exactly are you planning?

Date

24. June 2017 | 15:01

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Royal Robbins is dead

Royal Robbins (1935-2017)

One of the great pioneers in rock climbing has gone: Royal Robbins died yesterday in Modesto, California after a long illness at the age of 82 years. “My father faced challenges in his climbing, his writing, his business, his role as a father and husband, and later in life in his debilitating illness,” said his daughter Tamara Robbins. “Through it all, he rose to the occasion, taking the challenges on with grace and humility. For that, he’s my hero.” In the late 1950s and 1960s, Robbins had set standards in bigwall climbing.

Date

15. March 2017 | 13:24

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Ondra’s “Dawn Wall” coup: “Brilliant”

Adam Ondra cheered after his success

Adam Ondra cheered after his success

What a hotshot! The 23-year-old Czech Adam Ondra succeeded his free climb through the mostly vertical, partly overhanging “Dawn Wall” in the granite of El Capitan within only eight days. It was the only second free ascent of the rock route, which is regarded as the most difficult in the world. At the beginning of 2015, the Americans Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson had “freed” the “Dawn Wall” after 19 days in the approximately 900-meter-high wall, a milestone of climbing history. They had been preparing for it for more than seven years. Ondra spent just two and a half weeks on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Kevin Jorgeson finds the success of the young Czech “totally badass”, as he wrote to the magazine “Rock and Ice”: “For Tommy and I, the question was whether it was even possible. We left lots of room to improve the style and Adam did just that! Super impressive that he was able to adapt to the Dawn Wall’s unique style and sort out so many complex sequences so quickly.” The German climbing scene is also thrilled.

Date

23. November 2016 | 17:41

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East Greenland: Alexander Huber and Co. pluck the day

Huber_GroenlandSometimes climate change puts a spoke in adventurer’s wheel. Actually, German top climber Alexander Huber and his teammates from East Tyrol, Mario Walder, Bruno Schneider and Christian Zenz, had planned this summer to free climb the South Face of Tupilak in East Greenland, 16 years after the first ascent. “This is an absolutely awesome, steep wall,” says Alexander. “But we have not even got there. It was impossible to walk 40 to 50 km to the mountain without the use of sledges.” The bare glacier ice without snow cover and the small stones on it had wrecked the Pulkas, the plastic sledges, within only one third of the distance. The four climbers had taken their skis in vain.

Alexander Huber had already visited East Greenland last year, but in another season. “You just cannot imagine in arctic winter that everything is completely free of snow in summer. This shows quite clearly the effect of climate change”, tells me the 47-year-old, the younger of the two Huber brothers. “It’s very unusual that the zero-degree line in Greenland is permanently at a height of 2500 to 3000 meters.”

Date

5. October 2016 | 8:26

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Thomas Huber seriously injured in a fall

Thomas Huber

Thomas Huber

“Contrary to all the reports: I am okay,” Thomas Huber writes on Facebook. “I had 1000 guardian angels.” According to the website bgland24.de, the 49-year-old German top climber fell 20 meters deep from a rock wall on the Brendlberg in the Berchtesgaden region in Bavaria, when he was preparing for filming on Tuesday. Thomas meanwhile said it was a 12-meter-fall. He had opened a new route in the wall in late May. The climber was taken to the hospital of the town of Traunstein. Thomas is said to have suffered a fracture of the skull in the fall. Reportedly he was immediately operated for a blood clot.

Date

8. July 2016 | 11:24

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Alexander Huber: “Gamblers have never got far in the mountains”

Alexander Huber in Innsbruck

Alexander Huber in Innsbruck

The Huber brothers will continue to go on joint expeditions, but probably not to Latok I. Whereas Thomas Huber raved about the still unclimbed North Face of the 7,145-meter-high granite mountain in the Karakoram when I met him three weeks ago, his younger brother Alexander seems to have definitely written off the project due to their experiences last summer. I talked to the 46-year-old climber at the Alpine Trade Fair in Innsbruck last week.

Alexander, on Latok III, during your acclimatization for climbing the North Face of Latok I, you were are almost blown out of the wall by the blast wave of an ice avalanche. Your brother told me that never before it had been so close. Have you felt like he did?

It was definitely close. We had noticed the serac and therefore placed our camp far away from it. We were lucky that we had dug out a small platform to position the tents perfectly. The small snow edge of this platform has saved our lives. Otherwise we would have been blown away. In this respect, our risk management worked. But it was much, much closer than I ever imagined. And that’s shocking.

Date

13. November 2015 | 11:04

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Thomas Huber: “In the hands of fate as never before”

Thomas Huber on Choktoi Glacier, behind him the North Face of Latok I (l.) and Ogre (r.)

Thomas Huber on Choktoi Glacier, behind him the North Face of Latok I (l.) and Ogre (r.)

It was a hot, but from the climbers’ perspective a meager summer in the Karakoram: Most expeditions left Pakistan without summit successes. The German “Huberbuam” Thomas and Alexander, the Swiss Dani Arnold and the Austrian Mario Walder also returned empty-handed, but alive and “in one piece” – which was not a matter of course considering their experiences at the Latok group. Thomas, aged 48, the elder of the Huber brothers, told me the story.

Thomas, this summer you actually wanted to tackle the North Face of the 7,145-meter-high Latok I which has not yet been climbed. This did not happen. Why?

We have seen the North Face only from afar. We realized pretty soon that is was impossible to climb the wall under these conditions. It would have been possible to tackle the North Ridge. But this did not happen too, because another mountain battered us so that we lost our motivation and courage to push ourselves to the absolute limit again.

Date

2. October 2015 | 16:44

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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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Milestone on El Capitan

They did it: Caldwell (l.) and Jorgeson

They did it: Caldwell (l.) and Jorgeson

A milestone in the granite of El Capitan in Yosemite! After 19 days the US climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson reached the top of the extremely difficult, about 900-meter-high Dawn Wall after having climbed it free for the first time. They made climbing history. “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely”, 30-year-old Jorgesan said according to the New York Times. “I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.” As reported, it had taken Kevin seven days alone to master the extremely difficult 15th of 32 pitches of the route. “I think the larger audience’s conception is that we’re thrill seekers out there for an adrenaline rush. We really aren’t at all. It’s about spending our lives in these beautiful places and forming these incredible bonds”, 36-year-old Caldwell said. “For me, I love to dream big, and I love to find ways to be a bit of an explorer.” Tommy is climbing with only nine full fingers.

Date

15. January 2015 | 11:28

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Huber brothers cancel expedition to Pakistan

Alexander (r.) and Thomas Huber

Alexander (r.) and Thomas Huber

The Huber brothers have cancelled their planned expedition to Latok I in Pakistan – “because of the political situation in Pakistan”, Alexander and Thomas Huber write on Facebook.  “Of course the dream of this giant wall is still in our mind and we hope next year we will get another chance.” Actually the German climbers and their team comrades Dani Arnold and Mario Walder had their bags packed to start to Pakistan. “But the risk was no more calculable”, says Alexander when I call him. “First the offensive of the Taliban, now the offensive of the Pakistan army in North Waziristan. There will certainly be more terrorist attacks.”

Date

25. June 2014 | 13:33

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Huber brothers try to climb Latok I North Face

Alexander Huber

Alexander Huber

2013 was an unusual year for Alexander Huber. The younger of the two Huber brothers was not on expedition, in contrast to his brother Thomas. Instead, the 45-year-old climber published a book (there is no English version yet), in which Alexander commits to fear as open as probably no climber did before. I met him at Leverkusen near my hometown of Cologne where he was holding a lecture. 

Alexander, when will we see you on expedition again?

The next expedition is coming soon. By mid-June we will start to the Karakoram. Let’s see what will happen.

Do you reveal your plan?

Date

2. April 2014 | 13:06

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