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Simone Moro turns 50: “I’m still alive”

Simone Moro

It does not hurt more than usual. I can say that from my own experience. It is rather a mental challenge to realize that the first 50 years are over and the second half of life has definitely begun. Time to take stock. This Friday, Simone Moro celebrates his 50th birthday. The Italian can already be more than satisfied with his career as a high-altitude climber. No one else besides Simone has four winter first ascents of eight-thousanders on his account.

In 2005, Moro summited along with the Polish climber Piotr Morawski the 8027-meter-high Shishapangma for the first time in the cold season. Three other first winter ascents followed: In 2009 with the native Kazakh Denis Urubko on Makalu (8,485 m), in 2011 with Urubko and the American Cory Richards on Gasherbrum II (8,034 m) and in 2016 with the Spaniard Alex Txikon and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” on Nanga Parbat (8,125 m). Simone did all these eight-thousander climbs without bottled oxygen. Last spring, Moro and the South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger had planned to traverse the four summits of the Kangchenjunga massif, but had to turn back without having reached a single summit. Two attempts ended at 7,200 meters, because Simone suffered from stomach ache. Moro is married to the South Tyrolean climber Barbara Zwerger and has a 19-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. Simone has also earned his merits as a rescue helicopter pilot in the Himalayas.

Simone, half a century in your legs, how does that feel?

Date

26. October 2017 | 11:25

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China reacts allergically to Pakistan visas

The Potala Palace in Lhasa

Nasty surprise for some climbers heading for destinations in Tibet this spring: I have been confirmed by several sides that China currently does not allow tourists to enter Tibet in case that there is a visa for Pakistan issued in the past three years in their passport. Especially professional climbers, who like to tackle the impressive mountains of the Karakoram in summer, run the risk of not obtaining a visa for Tibet. Some mountaineers are stuck in the Nepali capital Kathmandu, because they have learned too late about this new regulation. So if you want to travel to Cho Oyu, Shishapangma or the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest and do not want to experience a bad surprise, take a look at your passport!

Date

12. April 2017 | 15:13

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China fuels the price spiral – and invests

Tibetan North side of Mount Everest

Tibetan North side of Mount Everest

Climbing on an eight-thousander in Tibet is getting more expensive, not only on Mount Everest. According to documents available to me, the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) has significantly increased the prices for the climbing permits on Everest, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma, on average by more than 30 percent. Since the beginning of the year, the CMA claims 9,950 US dollars per mountaineer for the climb of the highest mountain on earth in case of four or more team members. So far the Everest Permit cost about 7,000 dollars per head. 7,400 dollars are now due for Cho Oyu, 7,150 dollar for climbing Shishapangma from the north side and 7,650 dollars for an ascent from the south side of the mountain. For smaller teams of up to three, the permit costs are even in a five-digit range: 19,500 dollars per person on Everest, 12,600 dollars each on Cho Oyu and Shishapangma.

Date

13. January 2017 | 14:51

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Billi’s fifth 8000er

Billi Bierling on top of Cho Oyu

Billi Bierling on top of Cho Oyu

Done! „Summited Cho Oyu at 1 p.m. today without supplemented O2”, Billi Bierling tweeted. “It was a long and exhausting day. Thanks to all of you for keeping fingers crossed.” For the 49-year old German journalist and mountaineer it was her fifth successful eight-thousander ascent and after Manaslu in 2011 the second without breathing mask. In her first attempt on Cho Oyu eleven years ago she had not been able to climb further than 7,200 meters. “It was my first eight-thousander”, she wrote to me one and a half weeks ago. “At that time I was convinced that I am not strong enough for such high mountains.”

Date

1. October 2016 | 17:21

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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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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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Summit successes on Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Everest

Manaslu in Nepal

Manaslu in Nepal

It’s show time in the Himalayas. After all climbers should have completed their acclimatization on the eight-thousanders, the first summit successes have been reported. Yesterday Romanian Horia Colibasanu and Slovak Peter Hamor reached the 8163-meter-high summit of Manaslu via the normal route on the northeast side – without bottled oxygen and Sherpa support. Actually this ascent was only for acclimatization. The two plan to climb the mountain a second time, on a new “long and difficult route” (Colibasanu) on the north side of the mountain.

Date

11. May 2016 | 10:53

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Steck and Goettler: Five questions, five answers

Ueli Steck (l.) and David Goettler

Ueli Steck (l.) and David Goettler

He couldn’t stop thinking about it. When the Swiss top climber Ueli Steck solo climbed the South Face of 8027-meter- high Shishapangma in only ten and a half hours five years ago, he discovered a possible new direct line. This spring, the 39-year-old – along with the 37-year-old German professional climber David Goettler – returned to the 2000-meter-high wall to have a try at the new route. If everything works perfectly, they plan to descend from the summit via the north side, thus traversing the eight-thousander.

Before heading off to Tibet, Ueli and David acclimatized in the Everest region in Nepal – including trail-running over extremely long distances. I sent them five questions to their Base Camp at the foot of Shishapangma South Face.

Ueli and David, the pictures which you published on Facebook in recent weeks, remind me of Speedy Gonzales or Road Runner, two cartoon characters of my childhood: continuously in high speed mode, because hunted. At the same time each of you let us know that the other is really, really fit. Honestly, who of you is actually rushing whom? Or from what are you trying to escape?

Date

1. May 2016 | 13:18

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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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Martin Maier: “Everything seemed surreal”

Martin Maier

Martin Maier

Survived! On 24 September, Martin Maier was swept down 600 meters by an avalanche on the eight-thousander Shispapangma in Tibet. It was not only his friend Benedikt Boehm who called it a “small miracle”, that the 39-year-old climber from Munich did not die. The avalanche had released not far below the summit. The German ski mountaineer Sebastian Haag and the Italian Andrea Zambaldi were also caught by the avalanche and, in contrast to Maier, buried by the masses of snow. Both climbers died. Boehm and the Swiss Ueli Steck were just able to rescue themselves, when the entire slope began to slip off.

Martin Maier is recovering slowly but surely from the injuries he suffered in the accident. The engineer is not a professional climber, but has already gained a lot of experience on expeditions, inter alia to the Patagonian ice cap and to some 6000ers in South America. In 2012, he climbed the 8163-meter-high Manaslu in Nepal, the eighth highest mountain in the world. Martin told me his really incredible story of survival on Shishapangma:

Martin, how are you doing now?

I still have to struggle with many aftermaths of the avalanche and the whole tragedy, with my injuries that are yet to cure. And then of course there are always the thoughts with the friends who have died.

Date

10. November 2014 | 16:54

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Boehm: “The entire slope began to move”

Benedikt Boehm

Benedikt Boehm

Time is relative, depending on how you feel about it. Already three weeks ago? Only three weeks? This is the length of time that has passed since the avalanche on the eight-thousander Shishapangma in Tibet. On 24 September, the German ski mountaineer Sebastian Haag and the Italian Andrea Zambaldi died in an avalanche that released not far below the summit. Martin Maier, who was also swept away by the masses of snow, survived. Benedikt Boehm and the Swiss Ueli Steck were able to escape the avalanche. I call Benedict at home in Munich.

Benedict, it’s now three weeks since the avalanche on Shishapangma went down. Have you been able to come to terms with the accident?

No, not really. Immediately after the avalanche, I was involved with the rescue of Martin Maier, who had survived the avalanche as if by magic. It took two days, then we headed back home. Now I am busy again in my incredibly wonderful life that I am able to live here. As the manager of a relatively large sports brand, there are many tasks to complete, if you’ve been away for so long. That does not leave much time to come to rest. I had this time only during a couple of hours doing sports in the mountain early in the morning or late in the evening.

Date

17. October 2014 | 15:53

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Steck: “It was eerie”

Ueli Steck

Ueli Steck

Ueli Steck has done his share to lift the fog that formed around the avalanche on the eight-thousander Shishapangma one and a half week ago. Benedikt Boehm and he were a little bit higher on the slope, when suddenly a snow slab released and swept down the three climbers below us, Sebastian Haag, Andrea Zambaldi and Martin Maier, said Ueli in Kathmandu in an interview with the Swiss newspaper “Sonntagszeitung”. The snow slab released almost silently. It was eerie. Maier was able to dig himself out. He had no serious injuries, was able to descent and meet the rescue team. He is in Germany now.

All attempts to enter the avalanche area and search for the buried climbers Haag and Zambaldi were unsuccessful. It was too risky. We would have caused new avalanches, Steck said. “Finally, we had to descend. In desperation you must not make mistakes that can jeopardize other people.

Date

5. October 2014 | 22:12

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Death and record on Manaslu

Manaslu

Manaslu

It is not far from triumph to tragedy on eight-thousanders. That was demonstrated on Manaslu these days. On Friday, the Japanese Yoshimasa Sasaki fell about 25 meters after slipping on blue ice at 7,300 meters. The 59-year-old died. Sasaki had climbed the eight-thousander Cho Oyu in 2003. Last weekend more than 30 climbers reached the summit of Manaslu, the eight highest mountain in the world, including the Polish ski mountaineer Andrzej Bargiel. The 26-year-old said that he needed only 14 hours and five minutes for his speed ascent, just an hour less than the German Benedikt Boehm in fall 2012. After having skied down the most parts of the route, Andrzej reached the Base Camp 21 hours and 14 minutes after his departure. Two years ago, Bene had needed a total of 23.5 hours for ascent and ski descent.

Date

29. September 2014 | 15:49

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In memoriam Basti Haag

Basti Haag (1979-2014)

Basti Haag (1979-2014)

No, I didn’t really know Sebastian Haag. I met him only once – as we sometimes do in the mountaineering scene. It was a year ago, at the International Mountain Summit (IMS) in Brixen (Bressanone) in South Tyrol. At that time he and Benedikt Boehm reported on their experiences at the eight-thousander Manaslu in Nepal: On 22. September 2012, an avalanche had hit two high camps at about 6000 meters. Eleven climbers had been killed. Bene and Basti were lucky because, due to a disquieting feeling, they had pitched their tent far away from the others. After the accident the two Germans had rescued several injured climbers. In October 2013 in Brixen, we talked about the risks that Basti took as an extreme athlete. “There are moments in which you have to switch off your brain, and others in which you have to switch it on”, said Basti. “Of course something can happen to us, like to anyone else. Nobody is immune, no matter how cautious you are. And if you’re too cautious, you have to stay at home, climb the Zugspitze or take part in the Munich City marathon.”

Date

26. September 2014 | 15:38

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Avalanche on Shisha Pangma kills two climbers

ButterlampenI am shocked. During the expedition at Shisha Pangma (8.013m) in the morning of September 24th an avalanche accident happened. The Double8 expedition team around Benedikt Boehm, Sebastian Haag and Andrea Zambaldi were ascending towards summit when the accident occurred. The team mates Sebastian Haag and Andrea Zambaldi felt victim to the avalanche. This is the message that Benedikt Boehm sent from basecamp:

„In the afternoon of 23.09.2014 at 16:30, Benedikt Boehm (37) and Ueli Steck (38) started from Basecamp (5.600m) the speed ascent on Shisha Pangma 8013m. The plan was to reach the summit in the morning of the 24.09.2014, together with the team mates Sebastian Haag (36), who was starting from Camp 1 (6.300m) as well as Martin Maier (40) and Andrea Zambaldi (32) who were starting from Camp 2 (6.800m).

Date

25. September 2014 | 17:22

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