More DW Blogs DW.COM

Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

Robert Jasper: ”Like a jewel in a treasure box”

Robert Jasper (at the IMS in Brixen)

He himself was the most dangerous polar bear in Greenland. Whenever the German extreme climber Robert Jasper pitched up his tent last summer during his one-month solo expedition in the eternal ice, he built a protective fence against polar bears around it. If one of the predators had touched the fence, a flare would have gone off to chase the polar bear away – and of course to warn Robert. One day, however, the 50-year-old was so in mind that he touched the fence when he wanted to climb over it. “I almost blew myself up,” says Jasper.

Jump between two worlds

Alone in Greenland

We meet at the 10th and last “International Mountain Summit” in Brixen last week. In April, Robert had celebrated his 50th birthday. “I thought to myself: Before I get a midlife crisis now, I’d rather do a solo expedition,” says Jasper and laughs. “It was as if I was jumping back and forth between two worlds.” Jasper paddled through the fjords of Greenland in a folding kayak, hiked to the foot of the mountain he had chosen, and succeeded the first solo ascent of Molar Spire in three days. He called his route through the 450-meter-high rock face “Stonecircle” because “the most impressive things in life are often rocky and hard”.

Inner peace and strong nerves

Kayaking through the fjords

The mixture of being alone en route, kayaking and bigwall climbing was “very special” says Robert. “It was an absolutely ingenious adventure.” Even though he had a queasy feeling in the beginning, he coped well with the loneliness overall: “It was very, very quiet. You only have the sounds of nature. About this silence you find very fast to yourself. I was quickly in harmony with myself and absorbed the silence in me. This loneliness, combined with the wilderness, was a wellness holiday for the soul.”

When Jasper talked to others about his experiences after his return to civilization, his vocal cords were overstrained. “It took me a few days until I could speak properly again.  After four weeks I was simply not used to it anymore.”  He “would never have been able to spend so much time in the wilderness at the age of 20,” Robert believes. “Not at 30, maybe not even at 40. You must know yourself well, have inner peace and strong nerves as well.” Aged 50, he now fulfills all these qualifications. “Nevertheless, it was an experiment. It could also have gone wrong.” However, according to  Jasper’s words, he never had the feeling in all that time that “he was giving up control”.

Preserving lived stories

During the solo ascent

Expeditions like these on Greenland are “like jewels that I put in a treasure box. These are memories that make me happy,” says Robert. “I know many colleagues, especially younger ones, who go from one tour to the next, who are addicted to adventures and simply consume it. So I think to myself: ‘Be careful!’ You can have an accident and maybe the next day you won’t be able to climb anymore. If you haven’t learned to appreciate experiences, this situation can even break you. It is important to preserve stories you have experienced.”

Even though it was his first solo expedition, there have been – besides team successes – also some solo achievements in Jasper’s long career. For example in 1991, he climbed solo through the “classical” alpine north faces of the Eiger, Matterhorn and Grandes Jorasses. Together with his wife Daniela, Robert opened the first Eiger route in the tenth degree (“Symphonie de Liberté”) in 1999. His route “Odyssey”, mastered in 2015 along with Swiss Roger Schaeli and South Tyrolean Simon Gietl, is considered the most difficult route via the Eiger North Face to date.

Expeditions took him to the 7,804 metre high Nuptse East in the Himalayas, to Baffin Island in the Arctic – and to Patagonia: For their new route through the north face of the Cerro Murallon in 2005, Jasper and his team partner Stefan Glowacz were nominated for the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of the Climbers”.

More like a decathlete

On the summit of Molar Spire

Robert is not only on the move in extreme rock, but is an excellent ice climber too. “I was never a pure sports climber,” says Jasper. “I practice various disciplines of alpinism and am therefore more like a decathlete. Sport climbing is my basis: The safer you can climb the more buffers you have in alpine terrain.” Being father of a daughter and a son, “the backpack I carry has become bigger and heavier,” Robert admits. “I have more responsibility, but the experience outweighs that.” Safety is his top priority, not only on the mountain. “You have to try to minimize the risk but nevertheless take the step towards your passion, your adventures. That’s my philosophy.”


18. October 2018 | 20:51