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Heidi Sand: “You have only one life. Use it!”

Heidi Sand (in Patagonia last November)

Heidi Sand (in Patagonia last November)

Impossibly Heidi Sand could have foreseen that Denali would change her life in this way. When the German mountaineer and sculptor descended from the summit of the highest mountain of North America (6,910 m) in 2010, the then 43-year-old suddenly had strong stomach pain. Soon after the shattering diagnosis: advanced colorectal cancer. After the emergency surgery, chemotherapy followed. “If I survive, I want to reward myself with an eight-thousander,” Heidi then promised herself – and fulfilled this dream of her life: On 26 May 2012 the mother of three children stood on the summit of Mount Everest.

Meanwhile Heidi Sand has passed the critical five-year mark after her cancer diagnosis. She is considered to be cured – and has realized further climbing projects after having summited Everest. In autumn 2013, for example, Heidi scaled Cho Oyu without using bottled oxygen and in spring 2014 she stood on top of Makalu (with breathing mask). With Billi Bierling, Heidi shares the honor of having been the first German women to reach the summit of Makalu. Sand dedicated her three successes on eight-thousanders to her children, for her husband remained the Eiger North Face which she succeeded to climb a year ago, in December 2015. And last November, she tackled, along with the Swiss mountain guide Lorenz Frutiger, the legendary granite giant Fitz Roy in Patagonia – in vain, the weather put a spoke in their wheel. I asked the 50-year-old four questions about her climbing.

Heidi, what do you owe to the mountains, especially Mount Everest?

Date

13. December 2016 | 10:55

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Nives Meroi: “The arrogance of commercial climbing”

On the way to Makalu

On the way to Makalu

One eight-thousander is still missing. Then Nives Meroi and Romano Benet would be the first couple who would have scaled together the 14 highest mountains in the world – always without bottled oxygen and without Sherpa support. On 12 May, the two 54-year-olds from Italy stood at the top of their eight-thousander No. 13, the 8485-meter-high Makalu in Nepal.
Nives was 19 years old when she met Romano. First he was her climbing partner, then her life partner. They are married for 27 years. In 1998, they scaled Nanga Parbat, it was their first eight-thousander. In 2003, they succeeded in climbing the Karakorum trilogy of Gasherbrum I, II and Broad Peak in just 20 days. In 2007, Meroi was the first Italian woman who climbed Everest without oxygen mask.

Life-threatening disease

But there were also setbacks.  In 2009, Meroi had a good chance to become the first woman on all 14 eight-thousanders. On Kangchenjunga, at 7500 meters, Romano suddenly became increasingly weak. He tried to persuade Nives to climb on alone. But she refused and supported him during the descent. The reason for Benet’s weakness was serious: aplastic anemia. Two bone marrow transplants were necessary to save Romano’s life. They returned to the Himalayas. In 2014, Romano and Nives climbed Kangchenjunga. And now Makalu. Five questions to and five answers by Nives Meroi:

Nives, Romano and you have managed to climb Makalu, your 13th eight-thousander. If you compare it with the other twelve, was it rather one of the more difficult or easier ascents?

Date

4. July 2016 | 22:48

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Cool completes his Everest dozen

Kenton Cool

Kenton Cool

Also the first foreign climbers have now reached the summit of Mount Everest. After on Thursday – as reported – nine Sherpas had prepared the way to the highest point on 8.850 meters with fixed ropes, on Friday the two Britons Kenton Cool (aged 42) and Robert Lucas (53) reached the summit, accompanied by the Sherpas Dorchi Gyalzen and Pemba Bhote.  Cool stood on the “Roof of the world” for the twelfth time. A few minutes after the British climbers, the Mexican David Liano Gonzalez (36) enjoyed his sixth Everest summit success, also led by a Sherpa: Pasang Rita.

Date

13. May 2016 | 0:22

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Mysterious death of two Sherpas on Makalu

Makalu

Makalu

How could that happen? Two Sherpa mountain guides who were working for an expedition of the German operator Amical alpin died in Camp 2 at 6,700 m during a summit attempt on the eight-thousander Makalu. Other group members found the two Sherpas lifeless in their tent in the afternoon. “We can only speculate,” Dominik Mueller, head of Amical, tells me. “We suspect that they cooked in their closed tent without providing adequate ventilation and then died of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Date

11. May 2016 | 14:55

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Burning mountains

Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu (from l. to r.)

Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu (from l. to r.)

Perfect timing. Just when we reach the 5380-meter-high summit of Gokyo Ri, the clouds around the top of Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu turn orange. „The mountains are burning“, our guide Dipak Giri says. Step by step the first sunlight also meets the other summits around us: the eight-thousander Cho Oyu, the six-thousanders Cholatse, Kantega, Thamserku and in the distance Gaurishankar. A 360-degree panorama which is without equal. We were the only ones, who set off from Gokyo at 4,770 meters at 4 a.m. to admire this unique spectacle. Now we are sitting below the prayer flags and hardly believe our eyes.

Date

22. March 2016 | 12:35

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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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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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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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Coaching for Jogi’s World Cup expedition

Mike Horn and the German players

Mike Horn (r.) and the German players

Nothing can go wrong anymore for Jogi and his boys. Yesterday, just before the start of the FIFA World Cup in Brasil, the German national football team got a motivational training by an extreme athlete at the team base Campo Bahia. Mike Horn reported to national coach Loew and Co. on his adventures at sea, in the ice and on the highest mountains. Then Mike took the footballers along to his 35-meter-long expedition yacht “Pangaea”, showed them some basics of sailing and headed out to the Atlantic Ocean for a short trip.

Date

12. June 2014 | 17:02

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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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Summit successes on Kangchenjunga and other 8000ers

Denis Urubko on Kangchenjunga

Denis Urubko on Kangchenjunga

Mount Everest is still awaiting the first ascent this spring. But summit successes are reported from other eight-thousanders. The Russian climber Denis Urubko sent a message that he reached the 8586-meter-high summit of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain on earth, today at 9:40 a.m. local time. As Denis also his companions, the Polish climber Adam Bielecki, the Spaniard Alex Txikon and the Russians Artyom Brown and Dmitri Sinev, should have started the descent. Bielecki, Txikon and Sinev had previously made a summit bid but had returned from 8350 meters. Initially Urubko and Co. had wanted to open a new route through the North Face. Obviously, it was more of a variant of the British North Ridge route which Doug Scott, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker had climbed in 1979.

Date

19. May 2014 | 18:30

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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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Goettler: Relations with Sherpas will remain well

Last metres to the summit of Makalu

Many are familiar with the view of Makalu, without being aware of it. On pictures taken from the summit of Mount Everest in direction of the Southeast Ridge you see in the background the shapely fifth highest mountain on earth. Just a few kilometres linear distance are lying between the two 8000ers, but actually they are worlds apart. This spring the headlines concerning Everest were overturning: first the brawl in Camp 2, then the 60-year-anniversary of the first ascent. Because of this I lost sight of an expedition of four German and a Swiss climber to Makalu.

Siegrist left expedition

David Göttler, Michael Waerthl, Hans Mitterer, Daniel Bartsch and Stephan Siegrist wanted to climb the mountain in Alpine style via the challenging west pillar. Siegrist had to cancel the expedition because he got severe headaches and vision disorders,  possibly due to a skull fracture that he had a few years earlier. The other four abandoned their original plan and ascended via the normal route. Waerthl returned because of icy fingers about 200 metres below the summit. The other three climbers reached the highest point at 8485 metres.

Date

6. August 2013 | 17:43

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