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with Stefan Nestler

Thomas Huber: “Latok I North Face appears invincible”

On the six-thousander Panmah Kangri

“My tactic of arriving later in the season didn’t work this time,” Thomas Huber tells me after his return from the Karakoram, adding that it was a “fully mixed” expedition. “It started incredibly well, but unfortunately it didn’t end the same way.” As reported before – the 51-year-old, the older of the two Huber brothers, had left at the beginning of August with 33-year-old South Tyrolean Simon Gietl, 59-year-old German climber Rainer Treppte and French cameraman Yannick Boissenot towards Latok I in order to tackle the 7,145-meter-high mountain via the north side.

Meeting with his brother

“In the beginning everything was in a flow,” reports Thomas. The journey was without any problems, and at the entrance to the Choktoi valley there was a very nice and emotional moment: “We met my brother Alexander and his climbing partner Fabian Buhl, who had experienced a great adventure on Choktoi Ri and were all smiles.” After the meeting with the two climbers, who started their way home, Thomas Huber and Co. pitched up their base camp.

After one week on top of a 6000er

Thomas Huber with Simon Gietl, Rainer Treppte and Yannick Boissenot (from r. to l.)

For acclimatization, the team then climbed the 6,046-meter-high Panmah Kangri. “It was going perfectly. After a week on site, we stood on our first six-thousander, the next stage was Latok III,” says Thomas. “We climbed up to Camp 1 at 5,700 meters and then down again.” Their plan was to climb via the South Pillar to the summit at 6,946 meters. “We calculated three days if everything went well and the conditions were good.”

Three weeks of dense clouds

But it turned out quite differently. The weather changed – and remained bad. “We didn’t see the summit for three weeks,” says Huber. Dense clouds were hanging over the Choktoi Valley, it snowed. Summit attempts were out of question. Once, says Thomas, they climbed up again to Camp 1 on Latok III but returned due to snowfall.

A lot of snow in the wall

North Face of Latok I, on the right the North Ridge

Huber, Gietl, Treppte and Boissenot also explored the approach to the not yet successfully climbed North Face of Latok I, “our actual destination this summer”, as Thomas says. “However, we totally rejected our plan.“ The wall was “snow-covered like in winter”, there was a lot of spindrift. “The Koreans and Russians who had previously attempted the North Face this summer had been injured by avalanches,” says Thomas. “Now I understand why.“

Touch and go!

The risks in the wall were not calculable, that already applied to the access, says Thomas. “The North Face seems invincible. If you go there, you have to say ‚Good-bye life‘ – and then touch and go!” According to Thomas, already the seracs on the way to the access, are “very active. You simply need luck there.“ Their possible alternative goal, the direct route via the North Ridge to the summit, is feasible, says Thomas – but not under the conditions that prevailed at the beginning of September.

Great atmosphere in the team

“We tried everything that was possible and justifiable from a reasonable climbers’s point of view,” Thomas Huber sums up. “More couldn’t be done, we simply have to accept that. It certainly wasn‘t the last time we were in the Choktoi valley. “I just like it over there,“ says Thomas. „We had a good time and a great atmosphere in the team. That’s what I took home with me.”


28. September 2018 | 14:43