Göttler and Barmasse abandon Nanga Parbat winter expedition

David Göttler on Nanga Parbat, in the background Hervé Barmasse
David Göttler on Nanga Parbat, in the background Hervé Barmasse

“The long term weather forecast confirms that there is not a decent weather window on the horizon. The jet stream is sitting very comfortably stable just above the summit of Nanga Parbat,” writes German climber David Göttler from base camp at the foot of the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan.

His Italian team partner Hervé Barmasse adds that wind speeds of 70 to 200 kilometers per hour are expected in the summit area. “And as it almost always happens, after such a strong wind, the heavy snowfalls will start again, making the wait at base camp pointless.” So after about four weeks, Göttler and Barmasse will pitch down their tents in Pakistan and return home.

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Fully supported winter climbing on K2

Grace Tseng (2nd from r.) and her Nepalese companions, on the right Nima Gyalzen Sherpa.
Grace Tseng (2nd from r.) and her Nepalese companions, on the right Nima Gyalzen Sherpa.

Nima Gyalzen Sherpa, Chhiring Sherpa, Dawa Sherpa, Furi Sherpa, Ngima Tendi Sherpa, Ningma Dorje Tamang, Muhammad Sharif Rasool. To be on the safe side, I name the six Nepalese and Pakistani climbers who are currently on their way to K2 (today they reached the Goro II camp on the Baltoro Glacier at 4,200 meters). For all too often, those who have made successes on the eight-thousanders possible through their hard work are kept quiet afterwards.

The seven-member team of the Nepalese operator Dolma Outdoor Expedition wants to lead the Taiwanese Tseng Ko-erh, also called “Grace” Tseng, to the summit of the second highest mountain on earth this winter. Actually, Tashi Sherpa should also have been in the team. But he did not get an entry visa to Pakistan because of problems with his passport and was replaced by Rasool, as Dolma Outdoor Expedition told me.

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Winter expeditions: Difficult conditions on Mount Everest, Nanga Parbat and Manaslu.

Jost Kobusch at the "Pyramid", the Italian research station near Lobuche in the Everest Valley
Jost Kobusch at the “Pyramid”, the Italian research station near Lobuche in the Everest Valley

Blank ice or deep snow – this is how the eight-thousanders are currently presenting themselves to climbers attempting them this winter. “Compared to last time, the conditions are much icier,” Jost Kobusch tells me.

Just over a week ago, he had climbed Mount Everest towards the West Shoulder, on the same route that had taken him to just below 7,400 meters during his first winter attempt two years ago. As he did then, this year Jost is again climbing solo and without bottled oxygen. “There wasn’t as much snowfall as last time. And the little snow didn’t stay on the ice, of course, but was immediately blown away.”

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Mourning for Robert Grasegger

Robert Grasegger (1992-2022)

A rising star in the German mountaineering sky has gone out much too early. Robert Grasegger died in an avalanche accident in Patagonia. The mountaineer from the village of Grainau near Garmisch-Partenkirchen was only 29 years old. His partner, a 28-year-old female climber from Austria, was rescued seriously injured, her condition is stable, according to Argentine media reports.

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Mount Everest, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat: Snowfall slows down winter expeditions

Jost Kobusch on the ascent towards Everest West Ridge

It will probably be a base camp weekend. Whether on Mount Everest and Manaslu in Nepal or on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, meteorologists are expecting snowfall this weekend on all eight-thousanders where climbers are already staying in order to climb these mountains this winter.

Jost Kobusch is recovering – according to his GPS tracker – in the village of Lobuche at nearly 5,000 meters from his previous days’ climb towards the West Shoulder of Everest. The maximum altitude his tracker showed was 6,464 meters yesterday (Thursday) before he descended back into the Khumbu Glacier Valley via the Lho La, a 6000-meter pass between Nepal and Tibet.

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David Göttler on Nanga Parbat: “Probably via the Schell route”

David Göttler (l.) and Hervé Barmasse (r.)
David Göttler (l.) and Hervé Barmasse (r.)

The “naked mountain” – that’s Nanga Parbat translated – is still naked as far as successful winter ascents via the southeast-facing Rupal flank, the highest mountain wall in the world, are concerned. The only two winter summit successes so far on the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan have been via the northwest side, the Diamir flank: the first winter ascent in 2016 by Spaniard Alex Txikon, Italian Simone Moro and Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” (South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger turned back 70 meters below the summit) and the second one by Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol and Pole Tomek Mackiewicz (who died on the descent) in 2018. 

This winter, top German climber David Göttler (43 years old) and Italian Hervé Barmasse (44) plan to climb Nanga Parbat via the Rupal side – in clean style, without fixed ropes and bottled oxygen. The American Mike Arnold (34), who accompanied the two to Pakistan, will “as planned soon travel back towards home,” as David writes me from the base camp at 3,500 meters. “Only Hervé and I will attempt the mountain.”

Together in Tibet in spring 2017

David has been on this side of Nanga Parbat in winter before: in 2014, he made it to the Mazeno Ridge at 7,200 meters on the so-called “Schell Route” (named after Austrian Hanns Schell, who climbed there in 1976) before turning back due to bad weather. In spring 2017, Göttler and Barmasse climbed together in Tibet through the South Face of the eight-thousander Shishapangma – up to five meters below the summit.

David, how does it feel for you to be back on Nanga Parbat – eight years after your first winter attempt?

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Everest north side probably further closed

Everest north side
North side of Mount Everest

As long as COVID-19 has the world in its grip, it will remain lonely on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest. It’s not official yet, but hardly anyone on the scene still doubts that China will not allow foreign climbers into Tibet for the third spring in a row because of the pandemic.

“No change. See you in 2023!” – that’s how Kari Kobler, head of the Swiss expedition operator Kobler & Partner, sums up the reactions of those responsible in Tibet to his inquiries regarding Everest. “I think expeditions to Tibet’s eight-thousanders are impossible in spring,” Kari, who has been organizing expeditions to the Himalayas for three decades, writes to me. For the 2022 fall season in Tibet, he sees a 50/50 chance at most, “but even that looks chanceless from my point of view at the moment.”

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