Climbing scene mourns the death of the “Torre man” Ermanno Salvaterra

Ermanno Salvaterra (1955-2023)
Ermanno Salvaterra (1955-2023)

“Ermanno was considered the strongest climber in Patagonia, with good reason. For decades (he was) the great protagonist in South America. There is no doubt about that. He excelled in every terrain, braved the worst storms, adapted to every situation and never gave up.” That’s what top Italian mountaineer Hervé Barmasse wrote on Instagram about his late compatriot Ermanno Salvaterra, who had made headlines on the international scene mainly for his climbs in Patagonia.

On Friday, Salvaterra had died on Campanile Alto, a 2,937-meter-high Dolomite mountain in the Brenta massif, in a 20-meter fall at around 2,750 meters. The 68-year-old mountain guide had been leading a client who remained unharmed. Mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner pointed out that the Brenta massif had been the “true home” of the victim of the accident. “A handhold must have given way: A Salvaterra doesn’t normally fall there,” Messner said. The 78-year-old spoke of a tragedy. Salvaterra had been “a truly outstanding figure in alpinism,” Messner said.

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Miquel Mas and Marc Subirana open new route on Latok II secondary peak

Marc Subirana (l.) and Miquel Mas, in the background on the right the "thumb" of Latok II
Marc Subirana (l.) and Miquel Mas, in the background on the right the “thumb” of Latok II

The two Spanish climbers Miquel Mas and Marc Subirana succeeded in the second attempt a n alpinistic coup in the Karakoram. According to information from the Spaniard Carlos Garranzo, the two reached on Friday via a “very direct line” a previously unclimbed, approximately 6,400-meter-high secondary peak on the southwest flank of the 7,108-meter-high granite giant Latok II. They had spent a total of 18 days on the wall so far, with the summit day alone taking 14 hours, Carlos reports. According to him, Mique and Marc christened their new route “Latok Thumb.”

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“School up – far west”: “You help us to make our dream come true”

Lessons in the new building
Lessons in the new building

Kali Bahadur Shahi rejoices. “We are encouraged and inspired that our dream will soon become a reality to provide quality education to this underprivileged community,” says the teacher from Rama. Nepalhilfe Beilngries is currently building a new school for more than 350 students in this small mountain village in Humla District, in underdeveloped western Nepal. This was made possible by your donations for my aid project “School up – far west”.

“We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts for the material support for the construction,” says Shahi. “We are very motivated. We have started classes in one building while the first-floor ceiling in the other has just been concreted.”

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Everest permits to become more expensive – also in Tibet?

Sunrise on Mount Everest
Sunrise on Mount Everest (in fall 2019)

The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism wants to significantly increase the price for ascents of Mount Everest, by about 36 percent. The permit for foreign climbers should cost $15,000 from 2025 instead of the current $11,000, ministry spokesman Yubaraj Khatiwada told various media. However, the price increase should not take effect until the spring season after next, as the booking phase for spring 2024 has already begun, Khatiwada said.

While Nepal’s frequently changing governments have earned a reputation in recent years for very frequently announcing new regulations without subsequently implementing them. But a permit price hike seems quite realistic, given that the last increase was more than eight years ago. Another representative of the Ministry said that in the course of the reform, the insurance sums and wages for porters, high altitude porters and mountain guides should also be increased.

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Mourning for Shinji Tamura

Shinji Tamura (1966-2013)
Shinji Tamura (1966-2013)

In the north of Pakistan, the search for the Japanese climber Shinji Tamura, well known in the high-altitude mountaineering scene, has been suspended. According to the Pakistani newspaper “Dawn”, Tamura, together with his compatriot Takayasu Semba, had attempted last week to scale an unclimbed almost 6,000-meter-high mountain in the Kande Valley in alpine style (without bottled oxygen, high altitude porters, high camps and fixed ropes).

At 5,300 meters, the two Japanese fell, the newspaper reports. Takayasu, who was only slightly injured, pitched a tent for his more seriously injured rope partner and descended to base camp to get help. However, a rescue team later failed to find Shinji. It is speculated that Tamura eventually tried to descend alone, possibly falling into a crevasse.

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Willi Steindl on the lack of a rescue operation for Muhammad Hassan on K2: “You just have to want it”

Willi Steindl with the family of late Muhammad Hassan
Willi Steindl (l.) with the family of late Muhammad Hassan

The death of the Pakistani High Altitude Porter Muhammad Hassan at the end of July in the upper zone of K2 is causing discussions all over the world. Two questions in particular are of concern even to people who have little or no interest in mountaineering. How could dozens of mountaineers simply climb over Hassan on the second highest mountain on earth, although he was obviously still alive? Why did no one try to bring him down from the accident site above the so-called “Bottleneck” – an extremely steep passage at 8.200 meters, directly below huge overhanging seracs?

The Austrian Wilhelm Steindl helped initiate the discussion. He was part of the team of expedition operator Furtenbach Adventures that turned back below the Bottleneck because of too much avalanche danger. Steindl and German cameraman Philip Flämig later viewed video footage Flämig had shot with a drone. They saw on it that Hassan was apparently still alive hours after his accident, while numerous climbers walked past or climbed over him.

Steindl and Flämig visited Hassan’s family after the end of the expedition and delivered money they had collected to the surviving dependents. Steindl has since launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Internet (click here) to help the family of the deceased porter financially in the future as well.

Steindl runs a hotel in Kirchberg in the Austrian state of Tyrol. He raced cars until he was 18. “Then my racing career failed because there were no sponsors,” Willi tells me. I talked to the Austrian climber, who turns 31 this Saturday, about the summit day on K2.

Willi, how did you personally experience the situation in the summit zone of K2 on 27 July?

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Climbing over corpses for the summit?

The 8,611-meter-high K2 in the Karakoram (in 2004)

The pictures and videos that have been circulating in social media for days about the summit day on K2 are disturbing. In them, mountaineers can be seen climbing over the corpse of Pakistani climber Muhammad Hassan below the “Bottleneck,” the key passage at around 8,000 meters.

There are so many questions surrounding his death that the regional government of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province has set up a commission of inquiry. Within two weeks, it is to clarify what happened on 27 July in the summit zone of the second highest mountain on earth. What exactly happened to Hassan? Was everything done to save his life? Was he adequately equipped for his work as a High Altitude Porter? Should he even have been up there based on his mountaineering skills?

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