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with Stefan Nestler

Thomas Huber before his expedition to 7000er Latok I: “Complex and difficult”

Thomas Huber, Rainer Treppte and Simon Gietl (from l. to r.)

Thomas Huber is sitting on packed expedition barrels. “I’m really looking forward to the expedition,” says the 51-year-old. The older of the two Huber brothers is leaving for Pakistan this Saturday. Thomas wants to tackle the northern side of the 7,145-meter-high Latok I – together with 33-year-old South Tyrolean Simon Gietl and climbing old hand Rainer Treppte, aged 59, who comes from Saxony and has been living in the Allgäu region for a long time. “I have already climbed with them,” says Huber about his two climbing partners. Last spring, the trio succeeded in repeating for the first time the difficult “La Strada” route on the Cima Grande in the Dolomites, which the Poles Piotr Edelman and Jan Fialkowski had mastered for the first time in 1988. “We harmonize very well as a team, and we have every chance to tackle such a goal as Latok I,” says Thomas Huber. I also talked to him about the drama on this seven-thousander in the Karakoram that had kept us in suspense for days.

Thomas, yesterday we got the relieving message that the Russian climber Alexander Gukov was rescued from the North Ridge of Latok I. How did you experience this dramatic story?

Gukov rescued – after 19 days on the mountain

I checked “mountain.ru” every day to see what happened. I was hoping for good weather and studied the weather forecasts. My thoughts were always with Alexander Gukov on the North Ridge. Of course, it’s a very special feeling when you know that you will soon be on this mountain yourself. You just hope it ends well. But we should not forget the tragic death of Sergey Glazunov, who fell to his death while abseiling.

Things like that are never easy if you burn for a mountain. And for me, Latok is a very special mountain. My career on the very high mountains began with the first ascent of the Latok II West face in 1997 (together with his brother Alexander Huber, Toni Gutsch and the American Conrad Anker). And 21 years later I travel to Latok I – to a mountain where an incredible drama has just happened.

North Face of Latok I, on the right the North Ridge

Is that why you travel there with mixed feelings?

It’s not that easy. However, I am relieved at the moment that all the energy put into the rescue was finally rewarded and that Alexander could be brought alive and safe from the mountain. I think it was a salvation for him. I am glad that if everything goes well, we will pitch up our tents on the Choktoi Glacier only after another two and a half weeks. So some time will have passed, in which everything can calm down a bit.

Why do you set off so late in the season?

I believe it’s better to go later because of global warming. I think the mountain will be safer then. After all I read about the Russians and the Slovenes, it was extremely warm on Latok I in July and therefore also extremely dangerous. Alexander Gukov and Sergey Glazunov have nevertheless ascended. I don’t think the conditions were optimal.

I have to say, however, that I didn’t search information on these expeditions intensively. I rather went climbing. I wanted to get out of what was happening on Latok I because I felt the competitive situation. I am glad that I was not on the mountain at the same time, because definitely all decisions can no longer be made objectively when other expeditions are on the same mountain, on the same route, with the same goal. I look forward to us being alone on the mountain. We will seize our chance or even realize that it is too dangerous. We’ll try everything, of course. I enjoy taking up challenges that seem impossible. But I will also accept if the risk is incalculable. Then I’ll say: Okay, it doesn’t have to be.

Thomas sets out again

Have you already decided whether you want to try the North Face or the North Ridge?

No. I have a goal, an idea. But the mountain will always show you something new. The conditions and the weather will show you exactly the only way that is possible for you. The whole north side is so complex and so difficult. We’ll see.

This is your third trip to Latok I in four years after 2015 and 2016. Did you sink your teeth into this mountain?

I’ve never done this before, I’m not sinking my teeth into any mountain. But I have never really failed on Latok I, because it has always gone wrong in advance. I haven’t yet hit my ice tool a single time on Latok I. If I get a chance to make a serious attempt and Latok I shows me that it is too difficult for me, I will have made peace with this mountain.

Date

1. August 2018 | 19:57

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