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Stitzinger after success on Manaslu: “A different wind is blowing”

Luis Stitzinger (l.) and Alix von Melle (r.) on the summit of Manaslu

“Despite the premonition, we were utterly amazed at what happened there,” says Luis Stitzinger after his return from Manaslu. “This was a true tent city in the base camp.” As reported earlier, the 48-year-old had led a team of eight of the German expedition operator Amical alpin to the 8,163-meter-high summit in Nepal last Saturday. Along with Luis, his 46-year-old wife Alix von Melle, reached the highest point. For both, it was their seventh eight-thousander and the sixth which they scaled together, all without bottled oxygen. At the beginning of the expedition eleven of the 14 members of the Amical team had become infected with flu by ill porters. “It was a bad start,” says Luis. “Some members had to abandon the whole thing. It was a pity.” I reach Luis on the phone at a hotel in Kathmandu:

Luis, first of all congratulations on your seventh eight-thousander. How did you experience your summit day?

Date

6. October 2017 | 10:31

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Everest conditions on Manaslu

Manaslu

The “Mountain of the Spirit” is close to my heart. It is simply because I spent more than a month at the foot of Manaslu ten years ago. Since then, I have had a personal relationship with this impressive eight-thousander in Nepal. In spring 2007, I reported from the base camp at 4,850 meters about a commercial expedition. Once I myself climbed up to Camp 1 at 5,700 meters. At that time we – expedition leader Ralf Dujmovits and eleven clients as well as a team of two from Austria – were the only people on the mountain. We could not imagine (and would not have liked) then that Manaslu would mutate into the “Mount Everest of fall season”.  In the current season about 500 climbers populated Manaslu Base Camp. Nearly 200 summit successes have been reported so far – being noticed that this time mostly pictures were published that had been taken on the highest point and not, as in previous years, on a spot below. Among those who reached the 8,163-meter-high summit there were two climbers with whom I had been en route on other mountains.

Date

2. October 2017 | 14:42

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Soria abandons Dhaulagiri expedition, summit successes on Manaslu

Carlos Soria on Dhaulagiri

The probably fittest of all seniors among the high altitude climbers must still wait for his 13th eight-thousander. Because of too much snow on the mountain Carlos Soria declared his expedition on the 8,167-meter-high Dhaulagiri for finished. During the ascent of the 78-year-old Spaniard and his companions to Camp 1, some avalanches had swept down not far away from the climbers, Carlos indicated on Facebook, adding that the high risk of avalanches would continue in the upper parts of the mountain. Moreover, the fixed ropes which they had laid before had been buried by fresh snow. “Because of all these adversities, we have no choice but to abandon our Dhaulagiri expedition for this season,” said Soria. A first summit attempt had failed one and a half weeks ago at an altitude of about 7,800 meters, because Carlos and Co. had missed the right route while the fog had become stronger.

Date

26. September 2017 | 18:41

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Big rush on Manaslu

Manaslu

Once again, Manaslu turns to become the “Everest of the fall season”. The base camp at the foot of the eighth-highest mountain on earth (8,163 meters) will soon be reminiscent of the tented village at the highest of all mountains in spring. According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, the Nepali Ministry of Tourism has issued at least 135 permits to foreign mountaineers o climb Manaslu. Assuming that there will be on average one local Climbing Sherpa per one climber from abroad and some latecomers, probably between 300 and 400 people – including kitchen staff – will be arguing for the best pitches in the base camp. And the normal route via the north-east flank of the mountain might become crowded.

Date

7. September 2017 | 9:35

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Many question marks after the earthquake

Rescue on Everest

Rescue on Everest

Day three after the devastating earthquake in Nepal: The death toll in the country has risen to almost 4,000, and it is continuously increasing. An end of the bad news is not in sight. Still information focusses on the most heavily hit capital Kathmandu and the region around Mount Everest. From the other regions of the country, messages are barely trickling in. German trekkers report that debris flows also occured on the Annapurna Circuit on Saturday. Many trekkers are reportedly waiting on their way around the eight-thousander Manaslu for being evacuated by helicopter. The base camp at the foot of Annapurna was hit by an avalanche on Saturday. “It just about buried us in our tents, we had to use our knives to cut our way out. After that, myself and two sherpas had to do a rescue of a teammate”, Canadian mountaineer Al Hancock said.

Helicopter airlift

At Mount Everest, the rescue of the climbers, who were stranded at Camp 1 above 6,000 meters, is standing just before the end. Only 15 mountaineers are still waiting to be flown to the valley by helicopter. All Monday long, there was an  airlift to Camp 1, where initially about 150 climbers had been cut off from descent. Continously the helicopters started and landed. The “Icefall Doctors” have stopped their work on the route through the Khumbu Icefall for fear of aftershocks. Reportedly, three Sherpas died in the ice labyrinth during an aftershock on Sunday. It is still not clear how many climbers were killed in Everest Basecamp by the huge avalanche from Pumori, that was triggered by the earthquake on Saturday. Figures currently vary from 16 to 19. German climber Jost Kobusch survived. The 22-year-old took this video of the avalanche:

Stop on the Tibetan north side of Everest?

North side of Everest

North side of Everest

The situation on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest is unclear too. The official news agency Xinhua reports that China has cancelled all expeditions this spring. Xinhua relies on a high-ranking official who said that more aftershocks were expected next month. Today, Chinese officials discussed with the expedition leaders in “Chinese Base Camp”. According to my information, there will be another meeting on Tuesday morning. The German couple Alix von Melle and Luis Stitzinger has abandoned their Everest expedition on the north side on their own accord.  “We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering thas happened (in Nepal)”, Alix and Luis write on their homepage. “Moreover, we do not want to be the reason why Nepalese helpers, cooks and Climbing Sherpas have to stay here and cannot go home to their families to see if everything is alright.”

Date

27. April 2015 | 18:36

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Von Melle and Stitzinger abandon Everest expedition

Alix von Melle and Luis Stitzinger in Chinese Basecamp

Alix von Melle and Luis Stitzinger in Chinese Basecamp

Actually, they wanted to climb Mount Everest without bottled oxygen this spring. Actually, they were on the Tibetan north side of Everest where no one was injured by the earthquake. Nevertheless, the German couple Alix von Melle and Luis Stitzinger finished their Everest expedition, before they could make any attempt on the mountain. “Although there is no damage to people or property on the north side, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering thas has happened”, Alix and Luis write on their homepage. “Moreover, we do not want to be the reason why Nepalese helpers, cooks and Climbing Sherpas have to stay here and cannot go home to their families to see if everything is alright. Under the circumstances, we think it’s wrong to continue our  expedition. Even a possible summit success would feel vapid and invalid. We couldn’t find any joy in it.”

Date

27. April 2015 | 12:01

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As a pair, but not in cosy togetherness

Alix von Melle (r.) and Luis Stitzinger

Alix von Melle (r.) and Luis Stitzinger

This will be an illustrious group of mountaineers. In April, not only expedition leader Dominik Mueller and his clients but two German record holders will gather in the base camp of the German operator Amical alpin on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest. Firstly, the most successful mountaineer of the country, Ralf Dujmovits. The 53-year-old has already reached as so far only German climber the summits of all 14 eight-thousanders. On the other hand Alix von Melle, who scaled six eight-thousanders and thus leads the ranking of the most successful German women on the highest mountains in the world. Both want to climb without bottled oxygen, but they’ll do in separate teams: Ralf with the Canadian Nancy Hansen, Alix with her husband Luis Stitzinger. Van Melle says she has closed the chapter of the abrupt end of their Makalu expedition in May 2014. “This is over and mentally processed. I feel quite well again”, the 43-year-old told me.

Date

19. March 2015 | 15:12

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Dominik Mueller: “Concentrated competence at base camp”

Dominik Mueller

Dominik Mueller

The Everest climbers are in the starting blocks. In four weeks, the majority of them will travel to Nepal or Tibet. The final decision of the Nepalese government, whether and, if so, how exactly the permits of the prematurely terminated spring season 2014 are valid for 2015, is still to be made. Dominik Mueller, head of the German operator Amical alpin, doesn’t have to worry about that.  The 43-year-old leads an expedition to the Tibetan north side of Everest. His team will include not only “normal” clients but also three top-class mountaineering professionals from Germany. Ralf Dujmovits, so far the only German who climbed all eight-thousanders, wants to scale Everest without bottled oxygen – together with the Canadian Nancy Hansen. Alix von Melle and Luis Stitzinger plan to do the same. The German couple has so far climbed six eight-thousanders. Dominik Müller worked as an expedition leader on six of the 14 highest mountains. He reached the summit of Cho Oyo twice. “During the other expeditions, I had to put aside my personal interests being the leader”, Dominik told me. This time on Everest this could be different.

Date

6. March 2015 | 17:18

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Alix von Melle: Next exit Everest?

Alix von Melle on Makalu

Alix von Melle on Makalu

The ridge between audacity and high spirits is narrow. And it is always a question of perspective. If a climber is to explain a beach goer why he exposes himself to the risk of falling during a mountain tour, he will mostly meet with stunned disapproval. Alix von Melle will probably face those reactions if she will really set off for Tibet next spring to climb Mount Everest. Finally, Alix had to abort a summit attempt on Makalu for health grounds last May.

Date

18. November 2014 | 10:54

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Pulmonary edema stops Alix von Melle on Makalu

Alix (l.) and Luis on Makalu

Alix (l.) and Luis on Makalu

The most important thing first: Alix von Melle is doing well under the circumstances. The 42-year-old, who has scaled six eight-thousanders and is therefore the most successful German female high altitude climber, started with her husband Luis Stitzinger for their second summit attempt on Makalu at the end of last week. Both reached their last high camp at 7600 meters, as planned. The following night Alix and Luis began to climb to the summit. They wanted to reach the highest point at 8485 meters without bottled oxygen. It was cold and windy, Luis writes. “Like in the past days Alix was plagued by a strong cough, in the extremely cold and dry air at an altitude of more than 7500 meters. After a strong coughing fit Alix suddenly said: Something’s not right, I can hardly breathe!”

Date

30. May 2014 | 16:01

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German women power on Makalu

Heidi Sand (2012 on Everest)

Heidi Sand (2012 on Everest)

Super Sunday on Makalu. Two German female climbers reached the 8485-meter-high summit of the fifth highest mountain in the world on 25 May: Heidi Sand and Billi Bierling. Both were members of the team of Himalayan Experience. Therefore I am tempted to say that both are the first German women on Makalu.Heidi Sand was motivated to do high altitude mountaineering by a serious illness. When she was 43 years old, the sculptor from the town of Stuttgart she got the devastating diagnosis: colon cancer. She swore: If I survive, I will scale Mount Everest. Both happened. Heidi fought the cancer and reached the top of the world in 2012. In 2013, she scaled Cho Oyu – and now at the age of 47 years her third eight-thousander Makalu.

Date

27. May 2014 | 22:57

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Luis, last minute

Makalu

Makalu

In one point it is the same for mountaineers who want to climb an eight-thousander and for everyday travellers: Shortly before departure the dates are accumulating. They have to pave the way for their long absence in their jobs, meet friends and family and – last but not least – make the last preparations for the upcoming project. That applies to Luis Stitzinger, too. We met last weekend in Oberstdorf in the Alpes, the day before Luis’ departure to Nepal. The 45-year-old German and his wife Alix von Melle want to climb again Makalu, at the height of 8485 meters the fifth highest mountain in the world. In 2010, the couple had to turn back on 8050 meters at temperatures of minus 45 degrees Celsius. Alix and Luis have already climbed six eight-thousanders: Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum II, Nanga Parbat, Dhaulagiri, Broad Peak and Shishapangma, all without using bottled oxygen. This makes the 43-year-old Alix the most successful German women at the highest mountains in the world.

Date

7. April 2014 | 14:34

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