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with Stefan Nestler

Climber’s Groundhog Day on Nanga Parbat

Andie MacDowell with a real groundhog

Andie MacDowell with a real groundhog

What are Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell actually doing this winter? Perhaps the two Hollywood stars are traveling to Pakistan to shoot a remake of their blockbuster “Groundhog Day” that is set in the world of high altitude climbers. After all, the same match on Nanga Parbat is repeated year after year: Several expeditions arrive at the different base camps to climb the “Naked Mountain” for the first time in winter. And again and again they return home exhausted and empty-handed two months later. 27 expeditions ended this way. This winter, another five teams will tackle the 8,125-meter-high mountain, which is – apart from K 2 – the only eight-thousander which has never been climbed in the cold season. Two of the current climbing teams have the Murray/MacDowell pattern – even if the name of one of these expeditions sounds more like a Disney movie.

Rubber ducks

Elisabeth Revol in Camp 4 at 7,000 meters

Elisabeth Revol in Camp 4 at 7,000 meters

The male lead in the “rubber duck” team is played by Tomek Mackiewicz. For the sixth year in a row, the mountaineer from Poland is trying to first climb Nanga Parbat in winter. For the third time, he will be doing this along with the Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol. Last winter on the Diamir side of the mountain, both reached an altitude of about 7,800 meters before extreme cold and strong winds forced them back. “When I reached out, I could ‘feel’ the summit with the touch of my finger. It was very close”, Revol said then. This year, the Pakistani Arslan Ahmed Ansari is completing the team. The “rubber ducks” want to finish the Messner route, climbing it in Alpine style. In 2000, the South Tyroleans Reinhold and Hubert Messner, Hanspeter Eisendle and Wolfgang Tomaseth had opened this route up to an altitude of 7,500 meters.

Powerful engine

Tamara and Simone in Manaslu base camp

Tamara and Simone in Manaslu base camp

The other “Groundhog Day” team will also try to climb this route. “I want to see if the route Denis Urubko and I had identified as possible during the winter of 2012 is the right one”, says Simone Moro. The Italian is a real specialist for winter expeditions. He made three first winter ascents on eight-thousanders so far: on Shishapangma (2005), Makalu (2009) and Gasherbrum II (2011). The 48-year-old will tackle Nanga Parbat for the third time. The 29-year-old South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger takes the female role in this team. Last winter, Tamara and Simone went for the first time on a joint expedition. Masses of snow forced them back on Manaslu. Although they had not even climbed further up than Camp 1 at 5,700 meters, Tamara returned home with a smile in her face, says Moro and praises his rope partner’s performance: “Tamara has an engine that I have seen in very few men.”

Familiar faces

Nanga Parbat (seen from Diamir basecamp)

Nanga Parbat (seen from Diamir base camp)

Some of the climbers of the three other teams who try to climb the mountain this winter seem to have a special Nanga Parbat engine. Among the nine members of the Polish “Justice for all” expedition, who want to climb the Schell route on the Rupal side of the mountain, are some repeaters. This also applies to the Spaniard Alex Txikon, the Italian Daniele Nardi and the Pakistani Ali Sadpara who are familiar faces on Nanga Parbat. They want to use the Kinshofer route on the Diamir side – in traditional climbing style, i.e. with high camps. The fourth member of this team is the Polish climber Janusz Golab, who – along with his compatriot Adam Bielecki – had climbed the eight-thousander Gasherbrum I for the first time in winter in 2012.
Janusz is going to meet his former climbing partner in Nanga Parbat Base Camp: Bielecki, who was also among the climbers who, in 2013, first climbed Broad Peak in winter, will be accompanied by Jacek Czech. The two Poles also want to climb the mountain on the Kinshofer route, however in Alpine style.
Thus everything is prepared for a new episode of “Groundhog Day” on Nanga Parbat. But maybe this time there will be the kind of happy ending that Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell have submitted in their Hollywood blockbuster.


5. December 2015 | 14:00