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Spectacular first ascent on Cerro Kishtwar

In the Northwest Face

In the pictures, it almost seems like they were climbing on the legendary granite walls of El Capitan – were it not for the snow and the chilled faces. In mid-October, the two Swiss Stephan Siegrist and Julian Zanker and the German Thomas Huber first climbed the central Northwest Face of the 6,150-meter-high Cerro Kishtwar in the Indian part of the crisis region Kashmir. The three top climbers needed two attempts before reaching the summit on 14 October. It was only the fourth ascent of the remote mountain. Overall, the trio spent ten days in the extremely steep, partially overhanging wall – three days on the first attempt, seven on their successful second one.

Date

10. November 2017 | 9:48

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Russians make first ascent of Phungi

Ascent (red) and descent route (green)

Who says that there are no playgrounds for top climbers in the Himalayas anymore? Yury Koshelenko and Aleksei Lonchinskii have erased a blank spot on the map of the six-thousanders. 0n 28 October the two Russians succeeded the first ascent of the 6,538-meter-high Phungi, located west of the eight-thousander Manaslu in Nepal. The 54-year-old Koshelenko and  Lonchinskii, aged 35, climbed on a rather direct route through the about  1,500-meter-high Southeast Face of the mountain. It took them three days for the ascent in Alpine style and two more days for the descent on a different route.

Date

6. November 2017 | 17:42

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Kobusch, first ascender of Nangpai Gosum II: “Very difficult”

Kobusch’s route on Nangpai Gosum II

“The feeling was more than overwhelming to stand in a place that no one ever entered before me,” writes Jost Kobusch about his first ascent of the 7296-meter-high Nangpai Gosum II in the east of Nepal. As reported, the 25-year-old German had scaled the till then fourth-highest unclimbed mountain on earth two weeks ago. “Such ascents are still pure, real alpinism,” Jost writes to me. “This is exactly the direction I want to take – because a solo on a route with other climbers is not a real solo. I would like to enjoy alpinism in its purest form. For me, this is the maximum of minimalist mountaineering.” In the meantime, Kobusch has also given details of his route, which he graded to me as “TD”, which means “very difficult” (in the International French Adjectival System (IFAS) ,TD stands for “Tres Difficile”, with sustained snow and ice at an angle of 65-80 degrees and rock climbing at grade V and VI). He was en route with a very small team: the Nepali cook Ngima, kitchen helper Phurba and cameraman Raphael Schardt, who, according to Jost, only joined him once on the way to the Advanced Basce Camp (ABC) at the beginning of the expedition, later only filming with a large telephoto lens from the Base Camp.

Date

17. October 2017 | 15:17

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Kobusch succeeds first ascent of Nangpai Gosum II

Kobusch on top of Nangpai Gosum II

A blank spot less on the map of the highest mountains: According to his own words, the 24-year-old German climber Jost Kobusch made the first ascent of the 7,296-meter-high Nangpai Gosum II. The mountain, till then the fourth highest unclimbed peak of the world, is located in the border area between Nepal and China, not far from the eight-thousander Cho Oyu. The slightly higher Nangpai Gosum I (7,351 meters) is also known as Jasemba, in Nepal it is officially called Pasang Lhamu Chuli, named after the first Nepali woman on Mount Everest. “I’ve been climbing very fast. Shortly below the summit it got once again exhausting because there was a lot of deep snow,” Jost said in a podcast published on his website. “Standing up there was liberating. All these pains, the efforts before, suddenly subsided. I think I had not really believed that it would work.”

Date

10. October 2017 | 15:35

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First ascent of Burke Khang – without Burke

Burke Khang

The very big point was missing. The 6,942-meter-high Burke Khang was successfully first climbed – but Bill Burke, the man after whom the mountain in the Gokyo Valley near Mount Everest is named, was not at the top. According to the Nepali expedition operator Asian Trekking, the Northern Irishman Noel Hanna and the Sherpas Naga Dorje Sherpa, Pemba Tshering Sherpa and Samden Bhote reached the summit of Burke Khang on Thursday. Bill had ascended up to Camp 1 but had decided not to climb higher, it said. Bummer! He would have deserved to be among the first ascenders, just only because of his persistance. For the fourth time – after in fall 2015 and 2016 and in spring 2017 – the 75-year-old American had traveled to Burke Khang. The previous attempts had failed due to bad weather or dangerous conditions on the mountain.

Date

8. October 2017 | 12:23

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Auer and Bluemel succeed first ascent on a 7000er in Nepal

Auer (l.) and Bluemel on top of Gimmigela East

Auer (l.) and Bluemel on top of Gimmigela East

“It was one of those expeditions where it all fit together perfectly,” says Hansjoerg Auer. The 31-year-old Austrian and his countryman Alex Bluemel succeeded the first ascent of the North Face of the 7005-meter-high Gimmigela East, in Alpine style, means without ropes and high camps, without Sherpa support and without bottled oxygen. The sub-peak of Gimmigela Chuli (7350 m) is located in the far east of Nepal, on the border with India, quite hidden in the area around the eight-thousander Kangchenjunga, the third-highest mountain on earth.

Date

16. December 2016 | 13:05

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Fowler/Ramsden: This time separately successful

Piolet d'Or winners Mick Fowler (r.) and Paul Ramsden

Piolet d’Or winners Mick Fowler (r.) and Paul Ramsden

The tireless have done it again. The British Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden once again set climbing highlights, but, for a change, they were separately under way, with other team partners. Fowler, meanwhile 60 years (!) old, succeeded, along with his countryman Victor Saunders, the first ascent of the North Buttress of the 6100-meter-high Sersank in the North-Indian part of the Himalayas. Paul Ramsden and Nick Bullock climbed the North Face of the 7046-meter-high Nyainqentangla South East in Tibet for the first time. Last April, Fowler and Ramsden had won the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of the climbers”, for their first ascent of the 6571-meter-high Gave Ding, a remote mountain in northwestern Nepal. It was already the third “Golden Ice Axe” for the successful British team of two.

Date

12. October 2016 | 15:47

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Dujmovits and Hansen abandon attempt on Gasherbrum VI

Nancy at 6,400 m at Gasherbrum VI

Nancy at 6,400 m at Gasherbrum VI

The seven-thousander Gasherbrum VI in the Karakoram in Pakistan remains unclimbed. 54-year-old Ralf Dujmovits, Germany’s most successful high-altitude climber, and 47-year-old Canadian Nancy Hansen abandoned their attempt to first climb the 6,973-meter-high mountain (other elevation: 7,004 meters) in the Karakoram. They turned around at an altitude of 6,400 meters. “We did our best,” Ralf tells me via satellite phone. “Nancy fought in the slabs like a bear. It just was not meant to be. Finally we don’t want to commit suicide.”

Date

29. June 2016 | 17:13

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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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Siegrist: “Adventure connected to performance”

Stephan Siegrist

Stephan Siegrist

Who says that there is nothing left to explore! During their expedition in northern India this fall, the Swiss mountaineers Stephan Siegrist, Dres Abegglen and Thomas Senf first climbed three shapely mountains, all of them almost 6,000 meters high: Bhala (also called “Spear”, 5,900 m), Tupendeo (5,700 m) and Te (translated “Crystal”, 5,900 m), each of them on challenging routes. Indian Kashmir is still regarded as an insider tip among climbers. Because of the conflict with Pakistan, the mountain area had been closed to foreign visitors for a long time, until it was reopened in 2003. “The region was simply somewhat forgotten”, Stephan Siegrist tells me. The 42-year-old top climber has become almost an expert for Kashmir in recent years.

Stephan, three first ascents during an expedition cannot be matched by many other climbers. Have you been on a roll?

The motivation was very high. We climbed the first two peaks rather quickly. It is a great advantage that the time you need to acclimatize for altitudes up to 6,000 meters is much shorter, you almost don’t need any time. And the weather conditions were great.

Date

6. November 2015 | 16:43

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Sherpa trio completes first climb trilogy

The Cho Rolpa glacier lake in Rolwaling

The Cho Rolpa glacier lake in Rolwaling

Anyone who has ever climbed with Sherpas knows: There are many powerful, really good climbers among them, who can make western climbers look quite old. It is no wonder that there have been Sherpas as team members in many first ascents of the world’s highest mountains in the Himalayas and the Karakoram – like Tenzing Norgay on Mount Everest in 1953, Pasang Dawa Lama on Cho Oyu in 1954 or Gyalzen Norbu on Manaslu in 1956. But always along with foreign mountaineers. That has now changed.

Date

6. October 2015 | 16:22

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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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“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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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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