Viewed: “14 Peaks”

“Entertaining” – that’s how my wife summed up the Netflix documentary about Nirmal Purja‘s “Project Possible” when the 101 minutes were over. And I think she is right.

Some of the film sequences of the 14 highest mountains in the world that the Nepalese summited in 2019 in just six months and six days are truly breathtaking. And the story that is told does indeed have great entertainment potential: against all meteorological, financial, political and other odds, the former soldier of the British Gurkha Regiment does his thing and in the end successfully completes the project that sounded completely crazy at the beginning.

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Yasushi Yamanoi, a silent star of climbing

Yasushi Yamanoi
Yasushi Yamanoi

It’s about time. This Saturday in Briancon, France, when Yasushi Yamanoi from Japan receives the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of mountaineers”, for his lifetime achievement, this prestigious award will go to Asia for the first time. At the age of 56, Yasushi is also the youngest of the 13 mountaineering legends to be honored.

The previous twelve were mostly from Europe: Italian Walter Bonatti (in 2009), South Tyrolean Reinhold Messner (2010), Britons Doug Scott (2011) and Chris Bonington (2015), Frenchman Robert Paragot (2012) and his compatriot Catherine Destivelle (2020), Austrian Kurt Diemberger (2013), Poles Wojciech Kurtyka (2016) and Krzysztof Wielicki (2019), and Slovenian Andrej Stremfelj (2018). In addition, the two US Americans John Roskelley (2014) and Jeff Lowe (2017) were honored for their mountaineering lifetime achievements.

” Whether solo, as a married couple, or with friends, Yasushi Yamanoi’s climbing has shown great creativity, commitment, and resilience,” the makers of the Piolet d’Or pay tribute to the Japanese climber, who is well known in Asia but little in the West. “His minimalist style and often discreet ascents paved the way for younger Japanese climbers to operate in modern alpine-style.”

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Stefan Köhler: Four six-thousanders and a painful memory

Stefan Köhler on the summit of Ama Dablam
Stefan Köhler on the summit of Ama Dablam (Chamlang in the background)

Four peaks above 6,000 meters, frostbite on three fingers – that’s the balance of Stefan Köhler‘s Nepal trip this fall. “Despite the somewhat unfortunate ending, I had a great time in Nepal,” the 61-year-old tells me after his return.

At the end of June, Köhler had resigned from his post as first mayor of the city of Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance and taken early retirement. The enthusiastic mountaineer used his newfound freedom in the summer to lead groups into the mountains for the German operator Oberstdorf Alpinschule. His Himalayan trip was then on the agenda for this fall: Nepal again at last, Khumbu again at last.

In October 1990, Köhler had made a spectacular first ascent there: With his team partner Bernd Eberle, he had reached the 7,321-meter-high summit of Chamlang – via a new route through the Northwest and the West Face. It was the fourth ascent of the mountain, which is close to the eight-thousander Makalu. After that, work and family life had taken their time toll. In the past five years, however, Köhler had been increasingly drawn to the high mountains again. In 2016, for example, he had scaled the 7,077-meter-high Kun in the Indian Himalayas and in 2017 the 7,546-meter-high Mustagh Ata in western China.

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Mount Everest: Sajid Ali Sadpara flown out by rescue helicopter

Sajid Ali Sadpara (l.) in a hospital in Kathmandu

His 70th birthday next Monday, French climber Marc Batard is likely to celebrate at the foot of Mount Everest. The “sprinter”, as Marc was called in the 1980s, has his sights set on scouting out a new route from Everest Base camp to Camp 1 this late fall – across the Nuptse flank, away from the dangerous Khumbu Icefall through which the normal route on the south side of the mountain passes.

One of Batard’s team is likely to be missing from the fit jubilarian’s birthday celebration on Monday: Sajid Ali Sadpara was flown by rescue helicopter from Everest Base Camp to Kathmandu hospital. The 23-year-old reportedly suffered from high-altitude cerebral edema – which can easily be fatal if you are not brought quickly to lower altitudes.

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Giant avalange in western Nepal

Giant avalanche in Mustang

0.0 – that’s how high the chance of survival would have been if someone had been right at the foot of the mountain. The force of the avalanche that swept down yesterday from the 6380-meter-high Manapathi near the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri in western Nepal was so great that it also jumped over the next mountain range and almost reached the villages in front of it. The videos (see below) of the massive avalanche in Mustang district, which were circulated on social networks, are terrifying.

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Ukrainians succeed with a bang on Annapurna III

Viacheslav Polezhaiko, Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin (from l. to r.)
Successful trio: Viacheslav Polezhaiko, Nikita Balabanov and Mikhail Fomin (from l. to r.)

This goal was almost never missing from anyone’s list of remaining ultimate alpinistic challenges in the Himalayas and Karakoram: the Southeast Ridge of the 7555-meter-high Annapurna III in western Nepal. Now this project can be crossed off the lists. According to Ukrainians Nikita Balabanov, Mikhail Fomin and Viacheslav “Slava” Polezhaiko, they climbed the route completely and reached the summit. In the meantime, the trio returned safely to Kathmandu.

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Dispute over first ascent on Tengkangpoche defused

Tengkangpoche (on the right the Northeast Pillar)

It reminds me a little of the video proof introduced in European football. Spontaneous joy in the stadium over a goal is hardly possible anymore, because in the back of the mind there is always the thought: Hopefully the video assistant referee won’t take the goal back.

In mountaineering, there is no such referee, but when I hear about a success, I think more and more often: That sounds great, but maybe I should wait and see before reacting enthusiastically. Social media is a key contributor to this reticence. To put it drastically: No sooner is a sow on the market than it is driven through the village with a loud roar – and is difficult to catch again.

This is what happened after Tom Livingstone announced yesterday that he and his British compatriot Matt Glenn had succeeded in making the first ascent of the technically demanding Northeast Pillar of the 6,487-meter-high Tengkangpoche in Nepal. A little later, an article was published on the portal “Evening Sends” under the title: “Poaching on Tengkangpoche: A ‘slimy’ first ascent”.

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Tengkangpoche, Cholatse, Chobutse: New routes in the Everest region

Tengkangpoche (seen from Thame), on the right the Northeast Pillar
Tengkangpoche (seen from Thame), on the right the Northeast Pillar

The two top British climbers Tom Livingstone and Matt Glenn have succeeded in a sensational first ascent in the Khumbu. According to Tom, they opened a new route via the Northeast Pillar of the 6,487-meter-high Tengkangpoche. “We spent seven days on the route, which was one of the trickier things I’ve done,” the 30-year-old wrote on Instagram.

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Three French climbers missing in the Khumbu

Mountain rescuers at the foot of Minbo Ider
Mountain rescuers at the foot of Minbo Ider

Great concern for the French top talents Thomas Arfi, Louis Pachoud and Gabriel Miloche: the three young climbers have apparently been buried by an avalanche at the 6,017-meter-high Minbo Ider in the Khumbu region in Nepal. The summit is not far from the shapely Ama Dablam (6,812 m).

The French trio had set out last week to ascend through a couloir in the West Face of Minbo Ider. After they failed to report back, a rescue operation had been launched over the weekend.

On Sunday, pilots from the Nepalese helicopter company Kailash Helicopter Services spotted a track on the summit ridge that ended at the breakaway edge of an avalanche, and several pieces of equipment, including two backpacks, in an avalanche cone at the foot of the wall. Today, mountain rescuers were dropped off at the site to search for the missing climbers.

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