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with Stefan Nestler

As a pair, but not in cosy togetherness

Alix von Melle (r.) and Luis Stitzinger

Alix von Melle (r.) and Luis Stitzinger

This will be an illustrious group of mountaineers. In April, not only expedition leader Dominik Mueller and his clients but two German record holders will gather in the base camp of the German operator Amical alpin on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest. Firstly, the most successful mountaineer of the country, Ralf Dujmovits. The 53-year-old has already reached as so far only German climber the summits of all 14 eight-thousanders. On the other hand Alix von Melle, who scaled six eight-thousanders and thus leads the ranking of the most successful German women on the highest mountains in the world. Both want to climb without bottled oxygen, but they’ll do in separate teams: Ralf with the Canadian Nancy Hansen, Alix with her husband Luis Stitzinger. Van Melle says she has closed the chapter of the abrupt end of their Makalu expedition in May 2014. “This is over and mentally processed. I feel quite well again”, the 43-year-old told me.

Cortisone in her baggage

Alix on Makalu

Alix on Makalu

On Makalu, she and Luis had to cancel their summit attempt at over 7500 meters, because Alix suddenly lost all her energy. The symptoms pointed to a life-threatening high altitude pulmonary edema. Later it turned out that Alix had also suffered from a protracted pneumonia and asthma. “High altitude was definitely not the only reason”, Alix answered my question whether it would not have made more sense to choose a lower eigth-thousander instead of Everest. “These things could happen to me also on a five-, six- or seven-thousander.” Recent function tests of her lung had showed top results. Due to the asthma predisposition that was diagnosed after the Makalu expedition, Alix will take cortisone tablets with her in case of an emergency.

With clear head

Luis (l.) as expedition leader on Kokodak Dome

Luis (l.) as expedition leader on Kokodak Dome

Luis is not concerned. “We always worry about each other. This can not be avoided, but is also very useful”, said the 46-year-old, who, like his wife, has summited six eight-thousanders by now. “I trust Alix very much in knowing herself and taking the right decisions.” Both know that their chance of success on Everest is not really high because they want to do it – as during their previous climbs – without bottled oxygen. “Only if all things fit together perfectly, we’ll have a chance”, Luis said. “You can only climb on Everest without breathing mask in best conditions.” She would “keep a clear head”, Alix told me. “I’ll just look how I feel in high altitude, and certainly I will not risk too much.”

Accept the hustle and bustle

Alix and Luis will ascend on the normal route. They know that there may be much traffic. “I’m sure that I’ll get worked up about some of the hustle and bustle there”, said Luis. “But if you want to go there, you must be able to accept this. That’s just the way it is.” Alix also takes a pragmatic view on it: “Climbing Everest, you can not expect to be in cosy togetherness.”


19. March 2015 | 15:12