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with Stefan Nestler

She already felt the summit

Rupal side of Nanga Parbat (© The North Face)

Rupal side of Nanga Parbat (© The North Face)

“He who says patience, says courage, endurance, strength”, Baroness Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach once wrote. Of course the Austrian writer, who lived from 1830 to 1913, meant it generally. But with her words she described almost exactly the characteristics that are needed to climb an eight-thousander such as Nanga Parbat in winter. After more than two dozen unsuccessful winter expeditions, courageous, persistant and strong climbers try again to scale the ninth highest mountain on earth this winter. Currently, the attempt of the Russians Nickolay Totmjanin, Valery Shamalo, Serguey Kondrashkin and Victor Koval on the Rupal side, the south side of Nanga Parbat, seems to be the most promising try. After all, they worked up to an altitude of 7150 meters. “The whole route is about eight km. We fixed already 700 meters of very hard winter ice”, the four climbers from St. Petersburg wrote on Twitter. They said they encountered that type of ice almost everywhere above 6,000 meters. Dangerous blue ice was also one of the reasons why Tomek Mackiewicz from Poland and German David Goettler had returned on this route at 7,200 meters in winter 2014.

In short: Too risky

Elisabeth Revol in Camp 4 at 7,000 meters

Elisabeth Revol in Camp 4 at 7,000 meters

This year, Tomek switched to the north flank of the mountain that looked more promising. His summit attempt with the Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol on the Diamir side ended – as reported – at 7,800 meters. Only Zbigniew Trzmiel from Poland climbed 50 meter higher on Nanga Parbat in winter, during his failed attempt in 1997.
“We had no chance to reach the top”, Mackiewicz said. “Too cold, too windy, the weather too unpredictable – in short too risky”, Revol summarized after her return to France the reasons why they turned around 300 meters below the summit.  “When I reached out, I could ‘feel’ the summit with the touch of my finger. It was very close. My heartbeat increased, but we were to remain calm. It was frustrating; wasn’t easy to turn around, especially when you look at all the progress made ​​so far.” When  descending a snow bridge collapsed under Tomek, the climber from Poland fell 50 meters deep into a crevasse. Mackiewicz was lucky. He survived with thigh muscle and rib injuries and was able to free himself out of the crevasse with Elizabeth’s help. For Mackiewicz and Revol the expedition was completed. Both travelled home. The Italian Daniele Nardi stays on the Diamir side. He will be now joined by an Iranian team as well as by the Basque Alex Txikon who – in a team with two Pakistani climbers – also wants to scale Nanga Parbat first time in winter. Will there be enough courage, endurance and strength? So far, the mountain has held even the most patient winter candidates at bay.


26. January 2015 | 19:35