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Dujmovits decides to take Everest normal route, “though it pains me”

Ralf Dujmovits

Ralf Dujmovits

“It would have been a dream to take this beautiful route, but I do not dare to climb in this crumbly zone.” Ralf Dujmovits sounds a little bit disappointed when he calls me via satellite phone from the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest. Actually, the 52-year-old wanted to scale Everest via the route that Reinhold Messner had opened during his solo ascent in 1980: beneath the North Ridge, then through the upper part of the Norton Couloir, onto the summit plateau. The wind was the reason that he abandoned his plan, explains Ralf: “It is blowing for 14 days now. There is a rocky interruption in the upper section of the Norton Couloir, where it is the steepest. There is no snow, probably it is rather sandy.” Even the point where Messner had left the couloir is free of snow now. This challenge at an altitude of more than 8000 meters is too big for him, because he will be climbing alone and without bottled oxygen, says Ralf. “This is too difficult, too exciting. I’m getting older, I have not enough power for that.” Now he will try to climb to the summit on the normal route, “though it pains me”.

Alone on the mountain

Little snow in and around the Norton Couloir

Little snow in and around the Norton Couloir

Dujmovits is the first and by now only German who has climbed all 14 eight-thousanders. Only on Everest, in 1992, he used bottled oxygen. Ralf wants to wipe out what he thinks is a mistake. But his sixth attempt on Everest would definitely be his last, he said before his departure.

Ralf is feeling fit, so far he has been spared from colds or other illnesses. His acclimatization is completed. Actually Dujmovits wanted to stay in his camp at 7600 meters for a second night last weekend, but it was too windy. Therefore, he descended to ABC at 6400 meters on Sunday. Previously, he had deposited a material bag at 7700 meters, with a tent, sleeping bag, stove and food. “I carry my stuff by myself”, says Ralf. “Yesterday I was completely alone on the mountain.”

Cannot risk to get stuck in a jam

North Col (r.) with Changtse

Everest North Col (r.) with Changtse

Even the ABC is still rather empty, says Ralf. A Chinese group is there, and a few single climbers. These are not the forerunners of the first major summit wave of the season as speculated on the Internet, says Ralf. He expects that 25 and 26 May could be possible summit days. Maybe a first weather window will open already on 23 May, “but still with too much wind to climb without oxygen.” Probably most of the nine groups on the north side focus on the later date, believes Dujmovits. Therefore he has not still decided when to start himself. “Without bottled oxygen I can not risk to get stuck in a jam.” He also wants to consult with the experienced meteorologist Charly Gabl from the Austrian town of Innsbruck. Maybe there could be another weather window at the beginning of June.

Two Sherpas left their groups

Of course the news of the avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall, which killed 16 Nepalis on Good Friday, had spread quickly on the north side too, the 52-year-old climber told me: “Almost all Nepalese Sherpas who work for the teams here have lost in the disaster relatives or friends. There was deep sadness at Chinese base camp for two or three days. Two Sherpas left their expeditions. Meanwhile one of them has returned. Apart from that we have not noticed much of the trouble on the south side.”


19. May 2014 | 23:41