Huber brothers try to climb Latok I North Face
2013 was an unusual year for Alexander Huber. The younger of the two Huber brothers was not on expedition, in contrast to his brother Thomas. Instead, the 45-year-old climber published a book (there is no English version yet), in which Alexander commits to fear as open as probably no climber did before. I met him at Leverkusen near my hometown of Cologne where he was holding a lecture.
Alexander, when will we see you on expedition again?
The next expedition is coming soon. By mid-June we will start to the Karakoram. Let’s see what will happen.
Do you reveal your plan?
We go to the North Face of Latok I (with 7145 meters the highest peak of the Latok group). The project has already been tried many times by really good climbers. But so far, the wall has resisted vehemently. We need a lot of luck to be successful. But my goodness, if you do not try you can not make it.
Do you still have more climbers in your team?
Yes, there will be Mario Walder from East Tyrol in Austria and the Swiss Dani Arnold who is known for his technical and conditional strength. This is exactly what we need: a strong team that fits together well.
In 2013 you took in some respect a sabbatical. Do you feel in top shape now?
What makes you think that I had a sabbatical?
You have not been on expedition since 2012 on Baffin Island or am I wrong?
Actually, last year we wanted to climb free a new route on the Freney pillar (on Mont Blanc). Then Thomas left for Patagonia relatively quickly and I was without my climbing partner. I just did not find a partner who was strong enough to bring this project to an end. You need not only the right shape at the right time but also the right people because you are in a rope team, unless you are climbing free solo.
Apropos, you are now also a family man having three young children. Does this mean the end of your free solo projects?
I can not say for sure. What I will do in the future, depends little on the fact that I have a family. I do not know if I will realize another free solo project. What I do know is that we will try to climb via the North Face of the 7000er Latok I in the Karakoram. We’ll see what comes of it. What we do afterwards, depends on what will happen to us there.
The Karakoram mountains are in Pakistan. Do you have a strange feeling if you think of the political situation in the country and that you will travel there soon?
Of course the political situation is anything but funny and imposes a problem for us too. You are very limited after having arrived in the country. You cannot move freely because tourists are a possible target for the Taliban. The only area where we feel safe is Baltistan itself. When we arrive in the town of Skardu, we are in a pure Shiite area. The Baltis are Shiites and the people of Hunza are Ismailis, they have very little in common with the Taliban. Therefore, it is a Taliban-safe region, while Nanga Parbat for example is not.
When I googled your name in the past six months, it sometimes seemed to me that you had become an expert for fear because of the book that you published. Have you broken a taboo by dealing with this issue so intensely as a mountaineer?
This is my own experience that I have made with fear in my life. Not just on the mountain, where the fear is my best friend anyway because it guarantees that I survive, but also in everyday life. I once had an anxiety disorder and realized that I needed treatment. And I’m even thankful that I someday made the move to seek help. That was actually the way to recovery. If you run away from fear, it becomes your greatest enemy. However, if you face your fear, you can make friend with it. This has led me to give the book its title: “The fear, your best friend” is no provocation but meant absolutely seriously.
Did you get feedback also from the mountaineering scene? Climbers often claim to be wild guys without fear.
This is fundamentally wrong. Of course a climber has to be scared. If he has no fear, he will not climb for a long time.
But he usually does not commit to his fear.
This is certainly a tenor of my book, which has changed a lot in the scene. But I did not get a lot of feedback from there, instead much more from normal life. Many people who come to my lectures tell me that my book has not only given them hope, but can also be a good guide in life.
You are 45 years old. At this age many men fall into a midlife crisis, extreme climbers too?
As an athlete, you deal much earlier with the midlife crisis because the physical strength is decreasing much earlier than at 45. I am perfectly aware of the fact that I can not continue forever to be a mountaineer of world class level. Maybe I can succeed in doing some special actions, but not because of the bare physical power that I have – which is already far in the past – but because of tactical understanding , experience and mental strength, which is very important. Well, maybe I will have the one or other success, but it’s not a must.
Date2. April 2014 | 13:06