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with Stefan Nestler

Ogre by night schedule

East Pillar of Ogre I

This summer, there was hardly anything to be gained on Ogre I. “The weather was almost always rather bad,” German top climber Alexander Huber writes on Facebook about his expedition to the 7285-meter-high mountain in Pakistan. The conditions were marginal. “A little old snow from the winter and a lot of fresh snow from early summer in the structure of the snowpack. In addition always high temperatures. Summing up, piles of slush.” The 48-year-old, the younger of the Huber brothers, had wanted to reach the summit along with the East Tyroleans Mario Walder and Christian Zenz and the Swiss Dani Arnold via the still unclimbed East Pillar. Even before departure, Alexander had described Ogre I to me as “one of the most exclusive peaks of our planet, one of the most difficult spots to reach”. This was confirmed: Climbing was only possible after night schedule.

Terminus at the foot of the pillar

Dangerous ascent to the col

“During our three ascents to the col between Ogre I and Ogre II, we had to expend much energy to control the objective risks, “ reports Alexander. “Seracs, collapsing snow cornices, rockfall and wet snow avalanches, the first at 6 a.m., left us little room. Every activity had to take place between midnight and 5 a.m., then we had to wait in the tent for 19 hours until next night’s action.“ The plan to be en route only at night “unfortunately worked only half way”, writes Dani Arnold on his website, “because it took a few hours before the snow got hard in the night and until the sunrise we had little time to climb.” Finally, the decision was made: The entry to the East Pillar was the terminal stop of the night train – “far from the possibility to get close to the summit,” says Alexander Huber. “We are ready to give very much for a mountain: energy, motivation, willingness to suffer, commitment, risk tolerance. But if it is hopeless, we realize quickly that it is time to say no.”

Only three ascents

So the number of successful ascents on Ogre I remains at only three. The first was made 40 years ago, on 13 July 1977, by the British climbers Chris Bonington and Doug Scott. The descent became a drama with a happy end: Scott broke both ankles, Bonington two ribs. Nevertheless, both of them, supported by the other team members, reached the base camp one week after their summit success – one of the great survival stories on the highest mountains in the world.  In 2001, Alexander’s brother Thomas and the two Swiss Urs Stoecker and Iwan Wolf succeeded the second ascent of the mountain, in 2012 the Americans Kyle Dempster and Hayden Kennedy the third one.

Having taken the risk seriously

Nothing to be gained

For Alexander Huber it was his second failed attempt on Ogre I. In 1999, he had tried with his brother Thomas, Toni Gutsch and Jan Mersch in vain to climb via the South Pillar to the summit. The decision to turn around again was anything but easy, Alexander admits: “But I think we understood what the mountain wanted to tell us. And the mountain will be there even longer!” Dani Arnold also bears the failure on Ogre with dignity. “I am disappointed now,” writes the 33-year-old. “I am convinced, however, that it won’t turn out all right some day if you take an objective risk too often. Apart from that, I also think it is stupid if you don’t take serious what is foreseeable.”


30. August 2017 | 22:16