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Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

Alexander Huber: “Gamblers have never got far in the mountains”

Alexander Huber in Innsbruck

Alexander Huber in Innsbruck

The Huber brothers will continue to go on joint expeditions, but probably not to Latok I. Whereas Thomas Huber raved about the still unclimbed North Face of the 7,145-meter-high granite mountain in the Karakoram when I met him three weeks ago, his younger brother Alexander seems to have definitely written off the project due to their experiences last summer. I talked to the 46-year-old climber at the Alpine Trade Fair in Innsbruck last week.

Alexander, on Latok III, during your acclimatization for climbing the North Face of Latok I, you were are almost blown out of the wall by the blast wave of an ice avalanche. Your brother told me that never before it had been so close. Have you felt like he did?

It was definitely close. We had noticed the serac and therefore placed our camp far away from it. We were lucky that we had dug out a small platform to position the tents perfectly. The small snow edge of this platform has saved our lives. Otherwise we would have been blown away. In this respect, our risk management worked. But it was much, much closer than I ever imagined. And that’s shocking.

Did this extreme experience break your morale to tackle your original goal, the North Face of Latok I?

Yes, it broke our morale. But even if the serac had not collapsed, we would have noticed the bad conditions on the mountain the next day. We would have realized that it was impossible to climb further up and that we shouldn’t be there under such conditions and at such high temperatures.

Alex, Mario and Dani (l. to r.) at the summit of Panmah Kangri

Alex, Mario and Dani (l. to r.) at the summit of Panmah Kangri

What is your feeling when you remember this expedition?

I can accept it very well because it even was as it was. Mario (Walder), Dani (Arnold) and I climbed a small six-thousander at the end. In respect of mountain sports, that was not relevant at all because it was one dimension of difficulty lower than Latok I. But for me, it was a wonderful experience that I will always associate with this trip to Pakistan. To my mind, the expedition has got a name now: first ascent of Panmah Kangri, 6,046 meters, a beautiful free-standing mountain. Even though it is not extreme, we just have to be satisfied that finally everything turned out all right. We couldn’t achieve more than we did. If you have a problem dealing with this, you shouldn’t go to the mountains. We are doing an outdoor sport where the conditions decide whether we can climb or not. If you don’t want this, you have to look for another sport.

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Last year, you had already planned to go to Latok I but then called off your expedition due to the uncertain political situation in Pakistan. How did you experience the country this time?

In Baltistan, it was peaceful. In my view, there was no danger in the mountains. You can’t compare the situation there with this on Nanga Parbat. Whereas Nanga Parbat is easily accessible, the mountains of the Karakoram are remote and in addition located in a Shiite region where the Taliban are usually not as strong. I felt very safe in Baltistan. But if it had been possible, I would have avoided traveling on Karakorum Highway. Terrorism is a cold danger that you don’t sense. It only turns to be hot when it happens. You are traveling there in a state of continuing uncertainty. We didn’t notice any danger on Karakorum Highway, we saw nothing. But that doesn’t mean that it is really safe.

Alexander (r.) and Thomas - in the Karakoram last summer

Alexander (r.) and Thomas – in the Karakoram last summer

Are you still fired up for the North Face of Latok I?

It is clear to me: The North Face of Latok I is so incalculably dangerous that I feel no more motivation to tackle it. I’m looking for other difficult goals without this incalculable risk.

Do you speak as a family father?

No, that has nothing to do with the fact that I have a family. I do love my life and want to experience it. Also in the past, I back-pedaled when I thought that the goals were too dangerous.

It’s a sign of strength to be able to do so.

I mean, this is absolutely necessary. Gamblers have never got far in the mountains. It is still possible to become well-known very quickly with relatively little skills but high willingness to take risks. But there are enough examples to prove that it doesn’t go well for a long time.


13. November 2015 | 11:04