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Steck: “I will distance myself on Everest”

Ueli Steck

Ueli Steck

The experience on Mount Everest in spring 2013 has changed Ueli Steck. “The moment when I realized that the Sherpas wanted to kill me, a world came crashing in,” the 40-year-old Swiss top climber wrote in his new book “The Next Step”. “After that, my look at the world was a different one. I withdrew because I did not trust anyone anymore.” In spring 2017, Ueli will return to Everest – to try to traverse the highest mountain on earth and the 8,516-meter-high Lhotse. I talked to Steck about Everest.

Ueli, what does Mount Everest mean for you personally?

Everest is the highest mountain in the world. If high altitude climbing is your thing, it is, with an altitude of 8,848 meters, a dimension of its own and therefore the most interesting and exciting mountain.

Date

20. December 2016 | 18:06

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Shishapangma, the last take!

Shishapangma

Shishapangma

A chewing gum is not getting better by chewing it endlessly. There must come a time to spit it out. Stories are a similar ballgame. At a certain moment everything has been devoured a 1000 times. Then you should have the courage to draw a line under it before it becomes a never ending story, which is still only annoying. This will be my last blog post on the avalanche on Shishapangma which happened on next Saturday, exactly two years ago. Maybe not yet everything is said, but in my view it’s enough to close the chapter – and hopefully learn from it.

Date

22. September 2016 | 15:41

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Thomas Huber: “Thanks for staying alive!”

Thomas Huber (in 2014)

Thomas Huber (in 2014)

Approximately 1.8 seconds. That was the time it took when Thomas Huber fell 16 meters deep from a rock face on the Brendlberg in the Berchtesgaden region in Bavaria – now two weeks ago. As previously reported, the 49-year-old German top climber, the older of the two Huber brothers, landed on soft forest floor. As it turned out later, Thomas suffered a skull fracture and had to undergo surgery immediately. The doctor’s reassuring prognosis afterwards: no permanent damage. Meanwhile, Thomas has left the hospital and is recovering at home. I have phoned him.

Thomas, first things first: How are you?

Date

19. July 2016 | 23:24

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Controversy over avalanche on Shishapangma

Advanced Base Camp on Shishapangma

Advanced Base Camp on Shishapangma

24 September 2014, 6.55 a.m.: Five men are climbing at 7,900 meters towards the summit of the eight-thousander Shishapangma when the avalanche releases. The Germans Sebastian Haag and Martin Maier and Italian Andrea Zambaldi are swept several hundred meters down the slope. German Benedikt Boehm and Swiss Ueli Steck have a lucky escape and get away from the snow masses. The 36-year-old Haag and the 32-year-old Zambaldi die. Maier miraculously survives and is able to escape by his own strength to the high camp. The news of the incident first appears in my blog. The first interviews about the avalanche with Bene Boehm and Martin Maier can also be read on “Adventure Sports”.

“Time does not heal everything”

More than one and a half year later, Martin has opened up a debate on the incident by giving an interview to the German magazine “Bergsteiger”. The 41-year-old industrial engineer is in his own words still suffering from long-term effects which are not only health problems: “Time does not heal everything – neither injuries that have remained to this day nor the sadness and bitterness about the fact that people want to increase their self-esteem at the expense of others.” Maier accuses the other two survivors of the avalanche, Boehm and Steck, of not having told the truth and of having abandoned him too quickly.

Date

12. July 2016 | 21:25

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Steck and Goettler after Shishapangma South Face: “Only postponed”

Ueli Steck and David Goettler in Shishapangma South Face

Ueli Steck and David Goettler in Shishapangma South Face

It was one of the most exciting climbing projects of this spring’s season in the Himalayas. Swiss top climber Ueli Steck and German David Goettler initially planned to open a new direct route through the South Face of 8,027-meter-high Shishapangma. But they were not able to put it into practice. They “only” climbed the so called “Corredor Girona” route, opened by a Spanish team in 1995, up to the ridge at 7,800 meters and in their last attempt the route of the British first-ascenders of the South Face in 1982, Doug Scott, Alex MacIntyre and Roger Baxter-Jones, up to 7,600 meters. Even though they failed to climb a new route, Ueli and David didn’t return empty-handed from Tibet. I called the 39-year-old Swiss and the 37-year-old German in their hotel in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

Satisfied, disappointed or some of both? How do you feel after this expedition?

Date

30. May 2016 | 10:34

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Beck Weathers: “It made my life more rewarding”

Beck-Weathers

Beck Weathers

The Everest summit wave is rolling. Dozens, if not hundreds of summit successes are expected these days, on the Nepalese south side of the highest mountain on earth as well as on the Tibetan north side. Do the Everest aspirants still remember Beck Weathers? Possibly. After all, in 2015 the successful Hollywood movie “Everest” told his story. 20 years ago, in spring 1996, Beck also wanted to climb to the top of the world. Due to vision problems the American pathologist had to abandon his summit attempt at about 8,400 meters. Later he was caught in the storm that cost the lives of eight climbers within 24 hours.
It’s a miracle that Weathers survived. Actually, he was already as good as dead. After a night in whiteout his fellow climbers left him lying in the snow supposing he was dead. But Beck regained consciousness and despite severe frostbite he dragged himself to Camp 4. A rescue team brought him down to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters, from where Beck was brought to safety with a spectacular helicopter flight. Weathers’ right arm had to be amputated just below the elbow. Beck also lost all fingers of the left hand. His frostbitten nose had to be reconstructed in numerous operations.
I have contacted Beck Weathers on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Everest disaster. Because the 69-year-old was traveling, he has sent me his answers to my questions only a few days after the anniversary.

Beck, the 1996 Everest disaster was probably one of your most profound experiences. In what way has it changed your life?

Date

18. May 2016 | 16:24

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Tamara Lunger: “It was a dream”

Tamara Lunger

Tamara Lunger

It was close in two respects. Tamara Lunger only narrowly missed the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, then the 29-year-old South Tyrolean just escaped with her life. Just below the 8,125-meter-high summit, Tamara exhaustedly informed her Italian teammate Simone Moro that she would be able to climb up to the highest point but would not come down without help. Shortly afterwards, she turned around. Simone, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali (also known as “Ali Sadpara” – called after his home village) reached the summit without her. On the descent, Lunger lost her balance after jumping across a crevasse near the highest camp. She slid around 200 meters towards the abyss until she came to hold in loose snow with good luck. Meanwhile, the climber is back home in South Tyrol.

Tamara, first of all congratulations on your performance! Have you meanwhile recovered from the strains?

Thanks, Stefan. I must say that I have overcome the strains of the “near-summit” but not yet the consequences of my fall. My ankle is still swollen. I will get it checked up on Monday, but there is certainly something torn. 🙁

Date

7. March 2016 | 14:34

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Mingma Sherpa: “In the end price matters”

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

Dangerous Khumbu Icefall

The upcoming spring season on Everest casts its shadows before. Ten “Icefall doctors” were sent to the Base Camp on the Nepalese side of the highest mountain on earth to prepare the route for the commercial expeditions. In the past two years, there had been no summit successes from the south (I deliberately ignore the “success” of Chinese climber Wang Jing and her Sherpa-Team in 2014 who had been flown to Camp 2 by helicopter). In 2014, the spring season had prematurely ended after an ice avalanche in Khumbu Icefall had killed 16 Nepalese climbers. In 2015, the 25 April earthquake had triggered a huge avalanche from Pumori that had hit Everest Base Camp and killed 19 people.

On Monday, the Nepalese cabinet – at last! – gave green light for the extension of the 2015 climbing permits by two years. “It is a welcome move from the government that we hope will help bring back the climbers to the mountains”, said Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. But it might be too late for many of the about 800 climbers who got a 2015 permit, including 357 Everest aspirants, to return already this spring.

I asked Mingma Gyalje Sherpa about the upcoming season. The 29-year-old, who has already climbed seven eight-thousanders and recently made headlines by solo climbing the difficult West Face of 6685-meter-high Chobutse for the first time, is head of the Kathmandu based expedition and trekking operator Dreamers Destination.

Mingma, the spring season is around the corner. What do you expect, especially on Mount Everest?

Date

1. March 2016 | 17:40

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Lunger: “The prince has to fight for a long time”

Tamara Lunger

Tamara Lunger

The adjourned game on Nanga Parbat continues. 15 centimeters of fresh snow cover the Base Camp on the Diamir side. Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro and Tamara Lunger may be forced to postpone their acclimatization climb they actually planned for Sunday. A reconciliation between the Spaniard Txikon and the Italians Daniele Nardi seems unlikely. “YES, cooperation is finished”, Alex writes to me from Base Camp. “Although tried to give more than one chance to this cooperation, it was finally impossible.” The dispute also stresses Tamara Lunger. The 29-year-old South Tyrolean has already climbed two eight-thousanders: In 2010, as the youngest woman ever, Lhotse (with supplementary oxygen) and in 2014 K 2 (without breathing mask). On Nanga Parbat, she once again forms a team with the Italian Simone Moro. Last year, both had to abandon their attempt on Manaslu due to heavy snowfall. I have contacted Tamara in Nanga Parbat Base Camp.

Tamara, the bad weather has forced you to stay in Base Camp for days. How do you spend your time and keep yourself fit?

Date

6. February 2016 | 22:32

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Dujmovits: “Everyone wants to be the first on Nanga Parbat”

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

Ralf Dujmovits at the ISPO

Ralf Dujmovits is one of the many climbers who have already failed in winter on Nanga Parbat. The first and so far only German who climbed all 14 eight-thousanders tried to scale the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan at the turn of 2013/2014 after having acclimatized previously on the 6,962-meter-high Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America. At that time Ralf abandoned his expedition relatively quickly because he thought the danger of ice avalanches on the Messner route was by far too high. I met the 54-year-old this week at the trade fair ISPO in Munich.

Ralf, at the moment much is happening on Nanga Parbat. Are you not itching to go there again?

Date

29. January 2016 | 17:39

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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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Kuriki: “I’ll enjoy climbing including hardship”

Nobukazu Kuriki

Nobukazu Kuriki

Next try. In these days, Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki will start his second summit attempt on Mount Everest. As reported before, his first try had failed last weekend, at about 7,700 meters, the level of the Geneva Spur, 200 meters below the South Col. Kuriki is the only climber who tries to scale Everest this fall, climbing alone without bottled oxygen. I have succeeded in contacting the 33-year-old at Everest Base Camp.

Nobukazu, what went wrong during your first summit attempt?

There was deeper snow than I expected, and it took too long to plow through it.

You decided to pitch your tent for your highest camp at about 7,700 meters instead of the usual South Col. Why?

Date

1. October 2015 | 11:10

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Goettler: Violent Sherpas poison atmosphere on Everest

David Goettler

David Goettler

More than 300 Everest dreams are gone. As many climbers returned home empty-handed after their expeditions had been cancelled after the avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall on Good Friday. One of them was David Goettler. The 35-year-old from the German town of Munich had wanted to climb the highest mountain in the world via the normal route on the Nepalese south side without bottled oxygen. Goettler was still acclimatizing when he heard the first still inconsistent reports about the avalanche. “Initially, I hoped that I might still be able to make an attempt”, David told me on the phone. Therefore, he first continued his acclimatization program. “But when I was on the summit of Island Peak (6000er in the Everest region) and wanted to sleep below the highest point, the news came that my expedition and all others would be cancelled.” He returned to Kathmandu.

Date

3. May 2014 | 13:14

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Ralf Dujmovits: Mount Everest, take six!

Ralf Dujmovits and Mount Everest (in 2012)

Ralf Dujmovits and Mount Everest (in 2012)

How could the Portuguese explorer Fernando Magellan see so many campfires at the southern tip of South America in 1520 that he named the region “Tierra del Fuego”? Actually, the typical constant rain there should have extinguished any flame. During their expedition to Monte Sarmiento in Tierra del Fuego Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits, Ralf Gantzhorn and Rainer Pircher had only two half days without rain. Furthermore wind speeds up to 150 kilometers per hour at a height of 1800 meters. Thus the plan failed to climb the main summit of the 2246-meter-high, pyramid-shaped mountain via the North Face. In addition to bad weather the team had bad luck. A snow cave at 1600 meters, where the climbers had deposited their gear during their first attempt, had disappeared, when they climbed up for the second time.

Date

14. April 2014 | 23:45

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David Goettler: “Step by Step”

David on Nanga Parbat (© The North Face)

David on Nanga Parbat (© The North Face)

For David Goettler,  it is the first winter expedition to an eight-thousander. And then actually to Nanga Parbat! The 8125-meter-high mountain and K 2 are the only two remaining 8000ers which are unclimbed in the cold season. The 35-year-old German has teamed up with the Italians Simone Moro and Emilio Previtali. They are trying to reach the summit via the Schell route, starting on the Rupal side of Nanga Parbat. Moro did three first winter ascents of 8000ers (Shishapangma in 2005, Makalu in 2009, Gasherbrum II in 2011). I get David at basecamp where the team is recovering after a few days on the mountain.

David, how do you spend your time?

Reading, writing emails, giving interviews. In addition we are enjoying good food three times a day. Days are passing by amazingly fast. In my tent I am also doing some yoga exercises in order not to degenerate completely.

It is your first winter expedition to an eight-thousander. You have been now on Nanga Parbat for three weeks. How does it feel, everything as expected?

Date

22. January 2014 | 16:51

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