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with Stefan Nestler

Habeler: “Go to Nepal – but not all to Everest!”

Peter Habeler

Peter Habeler in the German town of Leverkusen

You would not estimate that Peter Habeler has really 73 years under his belt. Slim, wiry, tanned – just one who is still climbing mountains. Along with friends, he is currently repeating many routes in the Alps that he climbed when he was young, the Austrian told me when I met him at a mountaineers’ event in Leverkusen near my hometown Cologne last weekend: “Thankfully, I feel physically very well. But it’s going round in circles: If you train and climb a lot, you’re just in better physical shape.” Even 37 years after Habeler climbed Mount Everest along with Reinhold Messner for the first time without bottled oxygen, the highest mountain on earth is always in his mind – of course also due to the fact that he as a pioneer is questioned on Everest again and again.

Accidents in a way “homemade”

In the Khumbu Icefall

In the Khumbu Icefall

“It was good that the mountain had its peace this year”, says Habeler, when I mention that 2015 will be the first year on Everest since 1974 without summit successes: “Everest doesn’t deserve a thousand people.” Many of the numerous summit aspirants are not up to the mountain, says the Austrian, adding that the avalanche incidents in the past two years were to an extent “homemade”. The site in the Khumbu Icefall, where an ice avalanche killed 16 Nepalese climbers in spring 2014, had been an “extremely tricky place” even in his own active years, Habeler remembers: “When Reinhold (Messner) and I climbed through the Khumbu Icefall in 1978, we and all the others remained in the right part. Even in 2000, when I was there again, we didn’t climb on the left side of the Icefall because it was too dangerous.”
Habeler means that this spring’s avalanche, which hit Everest base camp and killed 19 people, did not take place without warning too. One of the reasons that the avalanche triggered by the earthquake could reach the base camp at all was that the tent city has spread more and more towards Pumori, “like a millipede”, says Habeler: “It has been known for a long time that avalanches often occur on this mountain.”

Limit for Everest

Habeler (r.) and Messner  (in 1975 after having climbed Gasherbrum I for the first time in Alpine style)

Habeler (r.) and Messner (in 1975, after having climbed Gasherbrum I for the first time in Alpine style)

Habeler is in favor of limiting the number of climbers on Everest but considers the probability to be small: “Tourism is the number one source of income in Nepal. It will be very difficult to make an example on Everest, of all mountains, because a lot of money is involved. It’s not incredible much money coming from the climbing royalties, but Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Therefore every dollar or cent counts. Nevertheless, a limit should be set, at least for Everest.”

Next year to Nepal
He has traveled to Nepal almost 70 times so far, says Habeler adding that he has many friends there and tries to help them after the devastating 25 April earthquake. Next year, he wants to fly to Nepal again and calls on all mountain lovers to do the same in order to support the country. “I plead one hundred percent: Go to Nepal!”, says Peter Habeler and continues with a smile: “But not all need to go to Everest.”


28. October 2015 | 17:12