Spring season on the eight-thousanders of Nepal: In the starting blocks

Hans Wenzl (at Everest Base Camp in 2017)

The spring climbing season in Nepal starts moving. The first foreign mountaineers have already arrived in the Himalayan state, among them Austrian Hans Wenzl. The 51-year-old is attempting the 8,091-meter-high Annapurna in the west of the country this spring. Hans, who earns his living not as a professional climber but as a foreman for an Austrian construction company, has already scaled nine eight-thousanders – all without bottled oxygen, including Mount Everest (in 2017) and K2 (in 2019).

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Mountaineering legend Kurt Diemberger celebrates his 90th birthday

Kurt Diemberger
Kurt Diemberger

In summer 2004, the same problem befell us. On the journey to K2, the second highest mountain on earth in Pakistan, both mountaineering legend Kurt Diemberger and I contracted diarrhea that put us out of action for two days. As we later discovered in conversation, we had both eaten eggs in a hotel in the town of Chilas on the Karakoram Highway that were past their prime. With rather wobbly legs, we set off as planned to trek across the Baltoro Glacier.

At the time, Kurt was accompanying a large Italian expedition as guest of honor, which had set itself the goal of another ascent of the mountain on the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of K2 by the Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli – five climbers of the team later succeeded in reaching the summit, all without the use of bottled oxygen. I was on a reporting trip to K2 because of the anniversary, which Kurt described to me as his “dream and destiny mountain.”

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Nepal ahead of spring season: Fewer climbers on Mount Everest?

View of Mount Everest (l.) and Lhotse (from Namche)

And again it will probably be a difficult spring season in the mountains of Nepal. In 2020 nothing went at all because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, a wave of infections also hit the base camps on Mount Everest and Dhaulagiri – the fact that the Nepalese government has not admitted this to this day is and remains a scandal. And now in spring 2022, the Russian war in Ukraine is causing uncertainty worldwide – certainly also among mountaineers.

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#ClimbersForPeace: When Russians and Ukrainians made common cause (in the mountains)

Special stamp commemorating the successful Soviet Everest expedition in 1982

It takes courage to speak out against your own government in a time of war. Especially when that government is threatening prison sentences of up to 15 years if “false information” is spread about the “special military action,” as President Vladimir Putin calls the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some top Russian mountaineers, such as Alexander Gukov, Evgeniy Glazunov and Dmitry Pavlenko, were not impressed, but took a clear public stand against Putin and his war of aggression.

Pavlenko’s tone, however, is becoming increasingly frustrated. “As bitter as it may be, we have to admit that Putin’s propaganda has won in Russia and parts of the CIS region. In twenty years, it has managed to turn over a hundred million people into flash drives. Now you can pour everything into them, and they will reproduce it and support it with all their might,” Dmitry wrote on Facebook today.  “This war has shown me that I have lost my homeland for good.”

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Jost Kobusch after his Everest expedition: “It was a tough winter”

Jost Kobusch
Jost Kobusch

For the second time, Jost Kobusch returns from Mount Everest with many experiences, but without a summit success. However, he had not set his sights on Everest summit this winter. His goal was to climb to 8,000 meters – if conditions allowed. But that’s exactly what didn’t happen this winter. Today, the 29-year-old German climber returned to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. His flight home is scheduled for 11 March.

Jost, you have now spent two months almost continuously at an altitude of above 5,000 meters. How are you physically?

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Cho Oyu: Now with joint forces

Cho Oyu
Nepalese side of Cho Oyu

After the second summit push last Monday was also not crowned with success, Gelje Sherpa has declared an end to the attempts over the Southeast Ridge of the eight-thousander Cho Oyu for the time being. “We put all our efforts into this push,” the 29-year-old let it be known. “We were so close. But our health and safety is the priority.”

According to Gelje, the Nepalese climbers reached an altitude of around 7,900 meters: “However, some of our team fell ill, there were also some issues with an oxygen mask and we decided that with this, the addition of incredibly strong winds up to 100kph and a very technical rock face near the ridge towards the summit it was time to retreat to basecamp.”

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#ClimbersForPeace: Russian climbers condemn attack on Ukraine

Alexander Gukov
Alexander Gukov

Russian climbers are raising their voices against the Ukraine war – regardless of possible repression by authorities in their home country. “We, the climbers of Russia, oppose the military actions that the Russian army is conducting on the territory of Ukraine. We know firsthand how fragile human life is,” reads an open letter to President Vladimir Putin published on Facebook by top Russian climber Alexander Gukov. “We consider it a crime for the Russian army to invade the territory of Ukraine, as a result of which the people of both countries suffer. This is a stain on the history of Russia, with which not only we, but also our children will have to live.”

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