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Checkmate at Annapurna summit

Jost Kobusch in Annapurna Base Camp

Jost Kobusch in Annapurna Base Camp

It sounds like an April fool’s joke with a month’s delay. Before the German Jost Kobuschas reported – reached the 8,091 meter-high summit of Annapurna on 1 May, he, according to his own words, played a game of chess against the Israeli climber Nadav Ben-Yehuda just below the highest point. “We had previously played at least two games every day at Base Camp during the periods of bad weather,” says Jost. So the idea of a chess duel at the top was born. Nadav, who used bottled oxygen, reached the highest point just before Jost, who climbed without breathing mask. “When we met just below the summit, I said to him: Wait! We still have to play a game of chess,” the 23-year-old German tells me. “We played on my smartphone, 20 meters below the summit.”

Some pretty stupid moves

The game turned into a kind of blitz chess. “We did it fast, fast. After seven minutes one of us won.” Kobusch does not reveal who. “This is a matter of honor.” To play chess in extremely thin air at 8,000 meters, says Jost, was “as if you try drunken to solve a math problem: in slow-motion, sometimes with pretty stupid moves.” Kobusch wants the game to be registered in the “Guinness Book of Records” as the highest ever played chess game. An American climber made a video of the chess game and can also testify it.

Seen climbers where none were

On ascent to Camp 4

On ascent to Camp 4

For the 23-year-old, the summit success on Annapurna was his first on an eight-thousander. “Up to the top, I found it relatively easy but on the descent I got problems,” says Jost. On the eve of the summit day, due to the icy cold it took him plenty of time to melt snow. “Two hours for one and a half liters of water. And I shared it. So I had only 750 milliliters for the whole summit day.” Totally dehydrated and exhausted, he briefly hallucinated: “I saw climbers descending where none were.” Kobusch recovered and safely reached the Base Camp.

Maybe next year to Lhotse

At home in Germany, he is already making new eight-thousander plans. “Today I thought to myself that I still have a permit for Lhotse, maybe I could go there again next year.” Last year, he had wanted to climb the fourth highest mountain in the world. However, on 25 April the Base Camp at the foot of Everest and Lhotse had been hit by a huge avalanche that had been triggered from the seven-thousander Pumori by the devastating earthquake in Nepal. 19 people were killed. The video (see below) of the avalanche, which Jost had made, spread like wildfire around the world. As a long-term goal, Kobusch wants to climb all 14 eight-thousanders, if possible without breathing mask. “I hope that I can climb also the high eight-thousanders without oxygen.”

His chess partner on Annapurna, Nadav Ben-Yehuda, had made headlines in 2012. The Israeli turned around just 300 meters before the summit to rescue Turkish climber Aydin Imrak who had collapsed. Ben-Yehuda helped Imrak down to Camp 4 at the South Col and suffered frostbite himself.


13. May 2016 | 19:29