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Norbert Joos is dead

Norbert Joos (1960 - 2016)

Norbert Joos (1960 – 2016)

Again one of the really great high altitude climbers was torn out of his life: The 55-year-old Swiss Norbert Joos fell to death on Piz Bernina in the canton Grisons. According to Swiss media reports, Joos had guided a group to the 4049-meter-high summit. On the descent the roped party of three, to which Joos belonged, fell 160 meters deep. Joos was found dead, the other two climbers, a woman and a man from Italy, survived seriously injured.

Date

11. July 2016 | 14:13

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Checkmate at Annapurna summit

Jost Kobusch in Annapurna Base Camp

Jost Kobusch in Annapurna Base Camp

It sounds like an April fool’s joke with a month’s delay. Before the German Jost Kobuschas reported – reached the 8,091 meter-high summit of Annapurna on 1 May, he, according to his own words, played a game of chess against the Israeli climber Nadav Ben-Yehuda just below the highest point. “We had previously played at least two games every day at Base Camp during the periods of bad weather,” says Jost. So the idea of a chess duel at the top was born. Nadav, who used bottled oxygen, reached the highest point just before Jost, who climbed without breathing mask. “When we met just below the summit, I said to him: Wait! We still have to play a game of chess,” the 23-year-old German tells me. “We played on my smartphone, 20 meters below the summit.”

Date

13. May 2016 | 19:29

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No. 12 for “best ager” Carlos Soria

Annapurna I (l.)

Annapurna I (l.)

That was an exceptional weekend on Annapurna. According to the Nepalese newspaper “The Himalayan Times” a total of 30 climbers reached the 8091-meter-high summit. That makes 12 percent of the about 250 summit successes on Annapurna to date. The tenth highest mountain in the world is considered the most dangerous of the 14 eight-thousanders. Already 72 mountaineers have lost their lives on this mountain.

Date

2. May 2016 | 13:11

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Steck: “The only way I can help the people of Nepal”

Ueli Steck

Ueli Steck

There are only 20 days left until Ueli Steck will return to Nepal. To the country where the 38-year-old Swiss top climber in the same year celebrated his probably most spectacular success as an extreme climber as well as the greatest fear of death that had nothing to do with mountain dangers. In spring 2013, a group of angry Sherpas attacked Ueli and his teammates Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith in Everest high camp and threatened them with death. In fall 2013, Steck reached the 8091-meter-high summit of Annapurna, the eight-thousander with the highest fatality rate: solo, via the extremely dangerous South Face, on a partly new route, as always without bottled oxygen. It took Ueli only 28 hours to climb up and down.

This summer, he proved once again that he is able to climb mountains lickety-split, when he – as reported in my blog – scaled all 82 four-thousanders of the Alps within 62 days and overcame the distance between the mountains without engine power: by hiking, cycling or paragliding. I talked to Ueli about his tour de force through the Alps – and also about his upcoming exciting project in Nepal: on Nuptse, within sight of Mount Everest.

Date

2. September 2015 | 13:00

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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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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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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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Barely no chance to escape

The avalanche from Pumori

The avalanche from Pumori

The quite inconceivable really happened. A huge avalanche from Pumori, triggered by yesterday’s earthquake in Nepal, hit the Base Camp at the foot of Mount Everest at full force. The seven-thousander is located just opposite the highest mountain in the world. But hardly anyone had expected that an avalanche from Pumori would reach the edge of the Khumbu Icefall. “I ran and it just flattened me. I tried to get up and it flattened me again. I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was dead,” said George Foulsham, a mountaineer who lives in Singapore. The 38-year-old marine biologist was lucky and survived. It is not yet totally clear how many climbers lost their lives in Base Camp.

Date

26. April 2015 | 19:35

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The other dead man from Annapurna

Annapurna I

Annapurna I

Dead and gone. Why only are single deaths of Sherpa climbers in the Himalayas swept under the carpet so quickly? Almost as if it was just a work accident. According to the motto: It’s sad, but unfortunately it sometimes happens. The most recent example was the accident on the eight-thousander Annapurna four weeks ago. In the days that followed, many obits of the 36-year-old Finn Samuli Mansikka were published. For sure, he had deserved each of them. Samuli was not only an excellent climber – Annapurna was his tenth eight-thousander, eight of which he climbed without bottled oxygen – but, according to all reports of his mates, a cool guy, always up for fun or ready for party. However, we learned next to nothing about the other climber who died. It was 35-year-old Pemba Sherpa, was said in a few reports. Allegedly he was born near the eight-thousander Makalu and was called “Technical Pemba” due to his technical climbing skills. About what Pemba had previously done as a mountaineer, the information diverged widely. I was not content with this confusion.

Date

23. April 2015 | 9:56

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Two fatalities on Annapurna

ButterlampenThe joy at the first summit successes of the spring season on one of the eight-thousanders in Nepal was overshadowed quickly. The news that 13 members of an expedition organized by the Nepalese operator Dreamers Destination had reached the summit of 8091-meter-high Annapurna on Tuedasy had just faded away when it was followed by bad news: The 36-year-old Finn Samuli Mansikka and the 35-year-old Pemba Sherpa fell to death during the descent. On Mansikka’s website his death was confirmed.

Date

25. March 2015 | 17:26

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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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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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And the winners are: Raphael, Ian and Ueli

Steck, Welsted, Slawinski (f.l.t.r)

Steck, Welsted, Slawinski (f.l.t.r)

This year’s jury of the Piolet’s d’Or has given the “Oscar of mountaineering” to two teams. The jury lead by the former US top climber George Lowe awarded “two very different ascents to represent the spirit of modern mountaineering”, as the members said. The Golden Ice Axes go to the Canadians Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted for their first ascent of the 7040-meter-high K 6 West in Karakoram on a new route via the Northwest Face and to the Swiss climber Ueli Steck for his solo ascent via the South Face of the eight-thousander Annapurna in Nepal. The awards were given to the climbers during a gala in Courmayeur in Italy at the foot of Mont Blanc on Saturday evening.

Date

30. March 2014 | 17:53

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New tourist tracking system for Nepal

Mahabir Pun

Mahabir Pun

This man has a vision. “I am thinking to write about how we can make Nepal a developed country in 30 years. It is not an impossible dream and I believe that it is doable”, Mahabir Pun writes on Facebook. The 59-year-old teacher was born in Nangi, a remote mountain village in the west of Nepal. After completing his studies in the USA Mahabir returned to his home country and founded a high school in Nangi. He brought WiFi and thus also the Internet to the mountains. For his achievements Mahabir Pun has received several awards, e.g. in 2007 the Ramon Magsaysay Award which is often considered to be Asia’s Nobel Prize.

Just now Mahabir has started a new project. In the region around the 8000er Annapurna a new tourist tracking system is being tested for six months. It was developed i.a. to locate and rescue single trekkers who have got in trouble. Nearly a dozen foreign tourists have gone missing from several hiking and trekking trails in Nepal over the past decade. I wrote to Mahabir to get some more details. He replied promptly.

Mahabir, did you develop this system by yourself?

E-Networking Research & Development” is a NGO and I am the chairman. We developed this system with our Japanese partners from Japan International ICT (Information Communication Technology) Association. Hardware was developed in Japan and we worked together for its overall development.

Date

24. January 2014 | 16:37

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Messner: “That was typically Ueli Steck”

Reinhold Messner in Cologne

Actually I wanted to ask Reinhold Messner these questions during the International Mountain Summit in Brixen. But a planned press conference was cancelled and the 69-year-old left the venue in no time at all, for whatever reason. But I had not to wait a long time for the South Tyrolean. He came to me – in a way. Last weekend the most famous mountaineer of the world gave a lecture in my home town of Cologne. Before the event started Messner answered my questions.

Reinhold Messner, recently you visited Pakistan, a few months after terrorists had shot eleven climbers at the Diamir basecamp on Nanga Parbat. Describe the atmosphere down there!

The mountain has not changed, but the connections are much worse than I thought. The terrorists were contract killers close to the Taliban, paid to carry out a bloodbath. Originally they had a different target. A great festival with polo games etc. was cancelled, probably because the organizers were worried that something might happen. Then the hit squad turned to Nanga Parbat. After the assault the killers took their money and disappeared. Some of them have been arrested, but nobody knows who has been the principal. On the one hand the terrorists wanted to hit the north of Pakistan, the local tourism, which collapsed by 90 percent. But they also wanted to hit the western world. Fortunately there have not been more victims. There were more than 60 people on Nanga Parbat, but most of them were at the high camps then.

Date

5. November 2013 | 21:15

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