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Dominik Mueller: “There will be more climbers on Everest”

North side of Everest in the last daylight

It could be a record season on Mount Everest. After the successful 2016 season, experts are expecting a run on the highest mountain on earth – especially since many climbers want to use their extended permits from 2014 (valid until 2019) and from 2015 (which will run out this year). In 2014, the season in Nepal had been finished prematurely after an avalanche accident in the Khumbu Icefall with 16 deaths. In 2015, there had been no ascents on both sides of the mountain due to the devastating earthquake in Nepal.

Dominik Mueller, head of the German expedition operator Amical alpin, will set off to Everest with a “small but strong team” on 8 April. Three clients, four Climbing Sherpas and he himself will try to reach the 8,850-meter-high summit via the normal route on the Tibetan north side. “I will use bottled oxygen because I believe that I can only support other people as best as possible when using a breathing mask,” says the 46-year-old. “Anyone who climbs Everest without supplemental oxygen is so preoccupied with himself that he probably has no resources left to look after others.” I talked to him about the upcoming season.

Dominik, with what expectations do you set off to the Himalayas?

Date

18. March 2017 | 15:44

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Billi Bierling on Cho Oyu: 3 questions, 3 answers

Billi in Tibet

Billi in Tibet

Anyone who has been on expedtion in Nepal more than once should have met her. Billi Bierling has been working as an assistent to Elizabeth Hawley, the legendary chronicler of mountaineering in the Himalayas, for many years. The meanwhile 92-year-old American is regarding Billi as her successor as leader of the Himalayan Database. What many people don’t know: the 49-year-old German does not only visit arriving and departing expedition members in the hotels of Kathmandu to interview them for the chronicle but is an ambitious high altitude mountaineer herself. She has climbed four eight-thousanders so far: in 2009 Mount Everest, in 2011 Lhotse and Manaslu (she reached this summit without bottled oxygen) and in 2014 Makalu. This fall she is tackling the 8188-meter-high Cho Oyu in Tibet. “I have chosen Cho Oyu for this year because I was here eleven years ago and reached just Camp 2 (at 7,200 meters). It was my first eight-thousander, and at that time I was convinced that I am not strong enough for such high mountains“, Billi writes to me. “Now I’m here again, and I really hope that the sixth highest mountain on earth will accept me this time. And like on Manaslu, I would like to reach the summit without supplemental oxygen.”

Billi, Cho Oyu might be your fifth eight-thousander. In preparation for expedition you did hundreds of kilometers mountain running. How high do you estimate your chance of success?

Date

21. September 2016 | 10:21

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The highest ski school in the world

Ski course in Nepal

Ski course in Nepal

Certainly they won’t be the most elegant skiers on Mera Peak, but motivation and enthusiasm will surely not be missing. Six Nepalese mountain guides have set out to ski down the 6476-meter-high “trekking peak” in Nepal in September. They will be accompanied by two ski instructors from Europe, German Julius Seidenader and Austrian Michael Moik. What’s remarkable: The Nepalese have been for the very first time on skis only last February. “I am confident that they will be able to ski down along with us,” says Julius.

Date

25. August 2016 | 21:06

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Luanne Freer: “Doping on Everest not talked about openly”

Luanne Freer (© Marmot.com)

Luanne Freer (© Marmot.com)

“Never open your mouth, unless you’re in the dentist’s chair.” These were the words Salvatore Gravano called “Sammy the Bull”, a mafioso from New York, used to describe the “Omerta”: the unwritten law of the underworld to be silent no matter what happens. Even athletes using doping substances usually say nothing unless they are found to be guilty. In this respect, mountaineering is not an “island of bliss”. Anyone who has ever been on expedition has probably met some climbers who carelessly use medicine that actually should be used in case of emergency – or even performance enhancers. Just nobody of these climbers admits to do so. Luanne Freer is the “Everest doctor”. For twelve years, she has treated climbers in “Everest ER”, the emergency room at the Base Camp on the Nepalese side of the highest mountain on earth. I asked the 57-year-old about her experiences on the topic of doping on Mount Everest.

Luanne, in 2003 you founded “Everest ER”, the highest infirmary in the world. Since then, you have spent many climbing seasons in Base Camp. How widespread is doping among Everest aspirants?

Date

9. December 2015 | 17:10

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Fowler: “No thoughts of giving up yet!”

Mick Fowler (l.) and Paul Ramsden

Mick Fowler (l.) and Paul Ramsden

Real adventurers should be young? Fiddlesticks! The Briton Mick Fowler and his long-time climbing partner and compatriot Paul Ramsden prove that you can do extremely ambitious climbs in the Himalayas even if you are older than 50. Mick is going to celebrate his 60th (!) anniversary next year – unbelievable! Many young climbers would turn green with envy comparing their efforts with Mick’s and Paul’s achievements in recent years. Again and again they succeed in first climbing amazing routes on six-thousanders in Nepal, India, China or elsewhere. They were already awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar for climbers”, twice: in 2003, for their new route through the North Face of the 6250-meter-high Siguniang in western China and in 2013, for their first climb of the Northeast Ridge of the 6142-meter-high Shiva in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. And they have a good chance to win the Golden Ice Axe for the third time – for their latest expedition. This October, Mick and Paul completed the first ascent of Gave Ding, a six-thousander located in a very remote valley in far west Nepal.

Mick, year after year you and your climbing partner Paul Ramsden discover ambitious new mountains or routes, tackle them and succeed. What is your secret of success?

Lots of hard research, a good partnership and a shared approach of not retreating unless there is a very good reason to do so.

Date

2. December 2015 | 9:26

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Dawa Steven Sherpa: “Ke garne! We carry on!”

Dawa Steven Sherpa

Dawa Steven Sherpa

There is a jinx on it. Two spring seasons on Everest in a row remained without summit successes (I ignore those of the Wang Jing team in 2014 because they were flown by helicopter to the high camp). In 2014, all commercial expeditions were cancelled after an avalanche had killed 16 Nepalese climbers in Khumbu Icefall. This year, the devastating earthquake in Nepal triggered an avalanche from the seven-thousander Pumori hitting Everest Base Camp and killing 19 mountaineers and support staff. Once again the spring season ended before it had really begun. What does this mean for the Sherpa people?

I called Dawa Steven Sherpa. Along with his father Ang Tshering Sherpa, the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), the 31-year-old is managing “Asian Trekking”, a Kathmandu-based leading operator for expeditions and trekkings in the Himalayas. Dawa Steven scaled Everest twice (in 2007 and 2008) and in addition the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu (2006) and Lhotse (2009). Under his expedition leadership more than 150 climbers have summited Everest. But Dawa Steven is also a tireless fighter for environmental and climate protection in the Himalayas. Furthermore he is leading “Resilient Homes”  , a project of the “Himalayan Climate Initiative” to help earthquake-affected communities to rebuild their houses and other buildings – one more reason to talk to him about the current situation in Nepal.

Date

9. September 2015 | 14:45

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Mothers’ meeting on Makalu

First view on Makalu (© Adrian Ballinger/Facebook)

First view on Makalu (© Adrian Ballinger/Facebook)

“We walked into base camp, dropped our packs, threw on our down jackets, and looked up. Makalu chose that moment to expose her summit”, Adrian Ballinger wrote on Instagram after yesterday’s arrival at the foot of the fourth highest mountain on earth. “Awe is the only word to describe the feeling.” Ballinger is leading a team of US climbers that is remarkable in several respects. First, it is even the only expedition on this eight-thousander in Nepal this fall. Second, the team will try to realize the first ski descent from the 8,485-meter-high summit. And third, three of the five expedition members are women, two of them mothers, and that’s not just commonplace in high-altitude mountaineering.

Date

30. August 2015 | 10:17

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PR with a permit

Enthusiasm for Japanese climber Kuriki

Enthusiasm for Japanese climber Kuriki

The despair in Nepal must be great. There is no other explanation for the fact that the government in Kathmandu called a press conference these days only to hand out a permit for an expedition. Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki received the written permission to climb Mount Everest this fall from the hands of Tourism Minister Kripasur Sherpa. “Kuriki is climbing at a time when there is confusion in the world about the safety in Nepal after the earthquake”, the Minister said. “This will be an example for other visitors to come to Nepal which is safe for mountain climbing.” The 33-year-old Japanese climber sang the same tune: “The main purpose of my climb is to spread the message that Nepal is safe for climbers and trekkers even after the earthquake.”

Kuriki – as reported – wants to climb Everest from the Nepal side, after the Chinese authorities gave all expeditions to Tibet the cold shoulder. Today Kuriki flew from Kathmandu to the Khumbu region for acclimatization. In 2012, in his last attempt to climb Everest in fall, the Japanese had suffered severe frostbite. Nine fingers had to be amputated. Like then, Kuriki again plans to climb solo and without bottled oxygen, this time on the normal route. The “Icefall Doctors” will prepare for him the route through the Khumbu Icefall.

Date

25. August 2015 | 23:20

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Lunger and Moro: Goodbye Manaslu!

Letzter Aufstieg nach Lager 1

Last ascent to Camp 1

South Tyrolean climber Tamara Lunger and her Italian team partner Simone Moro have finished their expedition to the eight highest mountain on earth. They had planned to climb not only the 8167-meter high main summit of Manaslu but also in one push the 7992-meter-high Pinnacle East. “It started off as a winter expedition and is ending as a spring one only by the calendar and not because of the weather conditions. I wrote ‘ending’ because this is the final decision taken by Tamara and myself over the past few hours”, Simone wrote from base camp at 4800 meters. “We have used up all our patience, optimism,  experience and shrewdness, but for this year Manaslu remains for both of us a dream we have decided to postpone.”

Date

8. April 2015 | 16:46

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Amical cancels expeditions to Pakistan

Broad Peak in Pakistan

Broad Peak in Pakistan

“It’s just too exciting”, says Dominik Mueller. The head of the German operator Amical alpin has called off all its expeditions and treks in Pakistan that were originally planned for the summer of 2015. “Due to the uncertain situation in Pakistan and the conflicts that flare up time and again in the areas around Gilgit and Chilas, we have reluctantly decided to take this step”, it says on Amical’s website. “We are worried about the violence of the Taliban, various subgroups and not least of religious factions. Thus we had no option.”

Date

23. March 2015 | 15:18

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(Mountain) Female power from Nepal

Maya, Dawa Yangzum, Pasang Lhamu (f.l.)

Maya, Dawa Yangzum, Pasang Lhamu (f.l.)

They are a powerful trio on the mountain: On 26 July 2014, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa, Maya Sherpa and Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita were the first women from Nepal, who reached the 8611-meter-high summit of K2 in Pakistan. The second highest mountain in the world is also called “Savage Mountain” due to the difficulty of ascent and the high fatality rate. “We were the first Nepalese women on K 2! And it was not easy climbing this moutain. Only real climbers know how and why we climbed K 2”, Dawa Yangzum writes to me. Mountaineers had appreciated their performance in an appropriate way. They did not expect that from the Nepalese government anyway: “Mostly, the government, the ministry and all these people just know Everest and the Seven Summits. If we had climbed the Seven Summits, they would have made us a front page news”, says the 25-year-old. The government is in Dawa Yangzum’s bad books anyway.

Date

7. January 2015 | 17:36

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First ascent of Kokodak Dome

Kokodak Dome

Kokodak Dome

Time so say hello again. I hope you didn’t worry about me, I am still alive. The reason why you did not read anything in English in my blog during the last weeks is that I was on expedition in the Northwest of China. Sorry, I was fully stretched climbing and writing my blog in German. I joined an AMICAL expedition to the previous unclimbed 7129-meter-high Kokodak Dome, also known as Kokodak II. The peak is part of the Kongur Range in the Kunlun mountains in the region Xinjiang. Kokodak I (or Kokodak Peak), which is 81 meters higher, was firstly climbed by a Russian team in 2006. Our expedition was led by Luis Stitzinger. The 45-year-old prominent German climber has already summited six 8000ers, five of them together with his wife Alix von Melle. Our team consisted of 13 clients from Germany and Austria – and of Chhongba Sherpa and Singi Lama, two Climbing Sherpas from Nepal.

Date

30. August 2014 | 21:48

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