“No mountain, not even a first ascent, is worth dying for or even freezing a finger off for. With a little distance, everyone will realize that, too,” Luis Stitzinger told me before we set off in 2014 for the previously unclimbed seven-thousander Kokodak Dome in western China. Nine years later, Luis is dead – having died after the 54-year-old scaled the 8,586-meter-high eight-thousander Kangchenjunga in eastern Nepal without bottled oxygen. As reported, a Sherpa search team found him yesterday at around 8,400 meters, lying lifeless in the snow. I couldn’t help but think of his words back then and wonder: was it worth it?
“Of course not,” Luis might reply. “But I was aware that I was doing a risky sport and might not return from the mountains one day. And I died doing what was my life and my passion. And where I was happiest: in the mountains.” Kangchenjunga, writes his wife Alix von Melle today in a moving last (public) greeting to Luis, was his “very big life dream which you still wanted to fulfill so much. Your eyes shone with enthusiasm when you spoke of it.” I feel for Alix – and remember Luis.
All hope was in vain, now it is sad certainty. Luis Stitzinger, one of the most successful high-altitude climbers in Germany, is dead. A Sherpa search team of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST) found 54-year-old on Kangchenjunga lifeless at an altitude of about 8,400 meters, SST chairman Mingma Sherpa told the Kathmandu-based newspaper The Himalayan Times. The climber’s body is now being brought down, he added. This information was also confirmed to me by mountaineer Alix von Melle, Stitzinger’s wife.
Luis had reached the summit of the third highest mountain on earth at 8,586 meters last Thursday at around 5 p.m. local time without bottled oxygen, the last of a number of climbers to reach the top that day. Around 9 p.m., he had sent another radio message. It was Luis’ last sign of life. He had been missing since then. As reported, a search team with bottled oxygen had ascended from base camp yesterday. According to Mingma, it consisted of five Sherpas.
The weather god had mercy. After fog had prevented the helicopter from taking off yesterday in the lower altitudes around the eight-thousander Kangchenjunga in eastern Nepal, it cleared up this morning Nepalese local time. The four-man Sherpa search team of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks was dropped off at base camp at around 5,150 meters and set off uphill. The plan was to reach Camp 4, the last high camp before the summit, at around 7.600 meters today if possible. The Sherpas climbed with bottled oxygen to make fast progress.
As reported, Luis Stitzinger, one of the most successful German high-altitude mountaineers, has been missing since Thursday evening in the upper area of the mountain. According to previous findings, the 54-year-old, who was en route without a breathing mask, was the last climber to reach the summit at 8,585 meters that day at around 5 pm. The last contact with him was a radio message around 9 pm. At this time, Luis was, according to his own information, at an altitude of about 8,300 meters. He had skis with him. Whether he also used them is unclear. After all, it was already dark at the time of the radio call. Luis did not arrive at Camp 4. Position data from his Garmin device is not available, which makes the search more difficult. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for a small miracle!
P.S. I am receiving many questions about Luis’ disappearance. I continue to urge you not to speculate on his fate, nor to badger his wife Alix. We will continue to provide you with the facts. As long as there is still hope, the search for Luis should be absolutely in focus!
Luis Stitzinger, one of the most successful German high-altitude mountaineers, has been missing since Thursday evening local time in the upper area of the eight-thousander Kangchenjunga in eastern Nepal. According to information from his wife, mountaineer Alix von Melle, Luis reached the summit of the third highest mountain on earth at around 5 p.m. – as the last climber of a group standing on the highest point at 8,586 meters that day.
The 54-year-old climbed without bottled oxygen and had his skis with him because he planned to ski down Kangchenjunga if possible. At around 9 p.m., Stitzinger was once again in contact with the base camp team of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST), Alix said.
The drama concerning Hungarian climber Szilard Suhajda in the summit area of Mount Everest did not end well. Today, the search for the 40-year-old was abandoned – “despite the superhuman efforts of a search team of top Nepalese mountain guides,” according to Suhajda’s team back home.
Three Sherpas, including Gelje Sherpa, one of the winter first ascenders of K2, had climbed up and down several times for hours between the former Hillary Step at around 8,750 meters and the summit at 8,849 meters, searching the terrain on all sides but discovering no trace of Szilard. “Considering the time, weather and terrain conditions, there was no further chance of finding the climber alive, so the ground search was called off,” it said.
What is Kilian Jornet up to on Mount Everest? That’s what many observers of the hustle and bustle on Mount Everest have been wondering ever since the Spaniard, known for his speed ascents, showed up at the highest mountain on earth. In April, the 35-year-old had run from Namche Bazaar, the main village in the Everest region, to the base camp in a single day, climbed to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters the very next morning and then ran back to Namche. In spring 2017, Kilian had scaled Everest twice within a week via the Tibetan north side – without a breathing mask.
Now Jornet has revealed the secret of his Everest plan this season. Already back in Kathmandu, he announced that he had attempted, solo and as always without bottled oxygen, the route via the West Ridge and through the Hornbein Couloir. Last Monday was the 60th anniversary of the day when the US Americans Tom Hornbein (he died at the beginning of May at the age of 92) and Willi Unsoeld (1926-1979) had opened the very demanding Everest route with bottled oxygen and reached the summit. Afterwards, they had descended on today’s normal route on the Nepalese south side. It was the first traverse of an eight-thousander. The route was repeated only seven times. Kilian Jornet abandoned his attempt.
And again a piece of true alpinism in the Himalayas. Within four days the two Czechs Marek Holecek and Matej Bernat succeeded in the first ascent of the approximately 1,300-meter-high Northwest face of the 6,764-meter-high Sura Peak (also known as Honku or Hongku Chuli Nup) – in alpine style, i.e. without bottled oxygen, without Sherpa support, without fixed ropes and without fixed high camps.
On the very first day on the wall, Marek was impressed by the steepness. “The initial 50 degrees in the firn was still possible. Then the degrees started to increase and the ground changed to ice of varying hardness,” Holecek announced via satellite phone last Saturday, which can be read on his various social media accounts.
The spring season on Mount Everest is turning into the home stretch. For this Wednesday the possibly last summit day of the season is expected. After that, the weather will probably become more unstable and windy. Traditionally, the season ends at the end of May, only in exceptional cases it is extended by a few days at most. Then the “Icefall Doctors” dismantle the route through the Khumbu Icefall. So far, about 300 summit successes have been reported.
Today Pasang Dawa Sherpa climbed – with bottled oxygen – to the highest point on earth for the second time this spring. This time, the 46-year-old led a client from Hungary to the highest point on earth. With 27 ascents now, he shares the title of man with the most Everest summit successes with Kami Rita Sherpa – but probably only temporarily, as Kami Rita is also on his way to his second ascent this season. It would be his 28th.
“Good news, South Face of Meru South Peak is climbed,” Swiss Roger Schäli wrote on Instagram today. “On the second attempt it worked. Big dreams need more than one try!” Schäli, Frenchman Mathieu Maynadier and South Tyrolean Simon Gietl climbed the South Face of the about 6,600-meter-high Meru Peak in India’s Garhwal Himalayas late last week – on a new, challenging route with two bivouacs.
In their first attempt in fall 2019, Schäli and Maynadier – then accompanied by Belgian Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll (he succeeded in a solo ascent of the so-called Fitz Traverse in Patagonia in 2021) – had to turn back at 6,400 meters due to bad weather. This time they were luckier, even though it had snowed heavily during the first phase of the expedition.
Today, Wednesday, was the most successful summit day of the spring season on Mount Everest so far. According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, more than 100 members of commercial teams reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters. So, it is likely that there was jostling at the summit and also on the route.
For Kami Rita Sherpa, standing on the highest point was routine. The 53-year-old Nepalese led – with bottled oxygen – a billionaire from the US financial sector to the Everest summit. Kami Rita thus stood on the roof of the world for the 27th time, more often than any other person.
They still exist, the ambitious alpinistic projects in the Himalayas, although rarely on the eight-thousanders. Last Friday, the Slovak Peter Hamor, the Slovenian Bojan Jan and the Italian couple Nives Meroi and Romano Benet climbed for the first time the West Face of the 7,318-meter-high Kabru South – “on a new route, without bottled oxygen, without Sherpa support, without high camps, without fixed ropes,” in other words in alpine style, as Hamor’s wife Maria reported from base camp. “Fortunately, the weather improved on the last day (of the climb), and the wind died down.” We’re sure to hear more details in the coming days.
The good weather window over the Himalayas with little wind seems to hold. And accordingly, it is hardly surprising that summit successes from the eight-thousanders are now being reported daily. After on Saturday – as reported – a nine-man team of the operator Imagine Nepal had fixed the ropes up to the summit of Mount Everest, on Sunday and today Monday also the first clients of the commercial teams reached the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters. Among them was the Pakistani Sajid Ali Sadpara, who climbed without bottled oxygen. For the 25-year-old son of Muhammad Ali Sadpara – the legendary Pakistani climber died on K2 in the winter of 2021 – it was the sixth eight-thousander and the second this spring after Annapurna, which Sajid had also climbed without a breathing mask.
Unbelievable what kind of idiots there are – also on Mount Everest. New Zealander Guy Cotter, head of the commercial expedition operator Adventure Consultants, sounds the alarm. At the last high camp, on the South Col at an altitude of just under 8,000 meters, he says, one of his team’s material stores has been looted.
“We just discovered we’ve had a cache of gear stolen from South Col. Tents, stoves, pots and gas all gone,” Guy wrote on Facebook. “The thieves do not consider the impacts this might have on the safety of our people when they arrive to find this vital equipment gone.”
It was half as long ago as the first ascent of Mount Everest, which this year marks its 70th anniversary. Exactly 35 years ago today, on 12 May 1988, Stephen Venables became the first Briton to reach the highest point on earth at 8,849 meters without bottled oxygen.
Beforehand, he had succeeded together with the Canadian Paul Teare and the two U.S. Americans Robert Anderson and Ed Webster in making the second ascent of the 3,000-meter-high, heavily glaciated and thus avalanche-prone Everest East Face. All four climbed without breathing masks. In 1983, the U.S. climbers Carlos Buhler, Kim Momb and Louis Reichard had mastered the Kangshung Face for the first time – with bottled oxygen.