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with Stefan Nestler

Dujmovits: “Pretty flabbergasted”

Gasherbrum VI seen from Base Camp

Gasherbrum VI seen from Base Camp

“Really annoying that this happened to me at the very beginning!” Ralf Dujmovits, Germany’s most successful high altitude climber, is upset that he has first suffered from diarrhea and then from a bad cold while trekking on the Baltoro Glacier. “Meanwhile I feel better, but I realize that I still lack power,” Ralf tells me, when I reach him on satellite phone during an exploration trip. The 54-year-old and his girlfriend, the 47-year-old Canadian climber Nancy Hansen, traveled to the Karakoram in order to try first ascents of two still unclimbed mountains: first Gasherbrum VI (the reported altitude varies between 6,973 and 7,004 meters), then, not far away, Praqpa Ri (different elevation data too: 7,134 or 7,152 meters). The two climbers have pitched up their Base Camp at the foot of Gasherbrum VI.

Ralf, how have you experienced Pakistan so far? The country is still said to be a risk area.

Nancy Hansen, in the background the 7000er Masherbrum

Nancy Hansen, in the background the 7000er Masherbrum

We have been warmly welcomed everywehre. When we visited a polo game in Skardu (city in northern Pakistan, starting point of most expeditions in Karakoram), people shouted: “Welcome!” Nancy was the only woman on the pitch. During our trekking all the porters welcomed us too. I feel the situation as very peaceful. There is great euphoria that this year finally once more nearly 30 expeditions have come to Pakistan.

This summer, more than 100 climbers have registered only for K 2. Have you noticed a lot of activity during your trekking on the Baltoro Glacier?

No. We met about 30 porters who carried equipment to K 2 Base Camp. But otherwise we didn’t notice anything of the heavy rush that is expected on K 2.

The last summers in the Karakoram were very warm. How is it now?

Today we have very nice weather again. However, we are slightly worried sitting here at an altitude of 5,000 meters in this scorching heat. We just had one and a half days of bad weather. At night, it snowed only for one hour, the other time it was always raining – early in June, at 5,000 meters! It’s just much too warm.

The Gasherbrum massif

The Gasherbrum massif

You had a first look at your first destination, Gasherbrum VI. How was your impression?

Up to the col below the South Face, it looks quite good, covered with snow. It appears that we can find a way on the left side of the icefall which leads from the Baltoro Glacier into the little high valley where we want to go up. Then we’ll have to climb a 45 to 50 degrees steep slope to the col at 6,100 meters. But we were pretty flabbergasted when we saw the terrain further up: We’ll have to do a lot of rock climbing. We actually expected more ice climbing. In particular, a rock barrier above the col gives us food for thought. It straddles the entire South Face, in some parts even slightly overhanging. We still do not know how to come across this ledge. However, we have not yet seen the entire rock barrier. Perhaps there is a way through more to the right. Everywhere is much less snow and ice compared to what I remember from my last visits in this area.

Do you want to tackle the mountain in Alpine style?

We had originally intended to acclimatize on Snow Dome (a mountain near the seven-thousander Chogolisa). But in these conditions, we will probably have to work our way up Gasherbrum VI and to use a few meters of fixed ropes above the Col. I feel it’s unlikely that we’ll tackle our first summit in Alpine style. That will probably not be possible due to the quite challenging rocky slopes up there. We actually had planned to climb in a single push from the col to the summit. But it does not appear to be realistic.

 Ralf Dujmovits (r., with Ashraf Aman, head of Adventure Tours Pakistan)

Ralf Dujmovits (r., with Ashraf Aman, head of Adventure Tours Pakistan)

How much time will you take for Gasherbrum VI? After all, you want to climb Parqpa Ri, another unclimbed seven-thousander near K 2, afterwards.

Actually, we want to finish our climb on Gasherbrum IV until end of June. However, it will be no problem to stay longer, if health reasons or the difficulties in the upper part of the mountain should make it necessary. We have a sufficient margin, so that we are able to add a few days more on Gasherbrum VI. If you are a team of only two climbers, you can handle it quite flexible.

Are the two unclimbed seven-thousanders equally important goals or do you have a preference for one of them?

When we were planning the expedition, Nancy was rather enthusiastic about Parqpa Ri and I more about Gasherbrum VI. But I think the goals are quite balanced. We feel really motivated to do both. Especially Nancy who is in good shape now wants to make progress. Currently I am still slowing her down a bit. But the euphoria for both summits is there. And we have enough time for both goals.


17. June 2016 | 14:49