I like solo expeditions. They are challenging and therefore exciting. And if the goal is not reached, there is no one afterwards to whom the adventurer can blame for it – except nature or himself. Even before his solo winter expedition to Mount Everest, Jost Kobusch had already told me that his main concern was to find out whether his plan to climb the highest mountain on earth solo, without bottled oxygen and on an ambitious route was realistic. “My personal goal would be to reach an altitude of about 7,200 meters. Anything above that would be a bonus, the summit anyway,” Jost had said before leaving for Nepal. In the end the bonus was 166 meters.
On his last attempt, the 27-year-old German climbed up to 7,366 meters at the Everest West Shoulder. The fact that he reached his altitude despite his damaged left foot makes him very happy, Kobusch wrote on Facebook, back in Kathmandu. “Sometimes you just have to set intermediate goals to get closer to the final goal.”
“Better chances next time”
He had known from the start that his chances of reaching the summit were small, says Jost: “But small means that they are there, right? 😉 The repeated ascents, the changing weather conditions, my foot injury and the ongoing stomach problems – all experiences that help to increase my chances of reaching the summit next time.“ Kobusch gives the impression that he returns home satisfied with himself and the world, even without summit success. This is not necessarily true of the participants of the failed eight-thousander winter expeditions in the Karakoram in Pakistan.
“Partners are as a ballast”
After his failed attempt on Broad Peak, Russian Denis Urubko not only announced his departure from extreme expedition climbing, but also competed against his teammates: former ones like Simone Moro and the current one, Don Bowie: “Partners are as a ballast.As Simone sometimes, as mostly of Polish team in 2018, as Don in last winter,” the 46-year-old wrote on his homepage. „To be good person is okay, but is not enough to get (to the) summit. I stopped so many times because of irresponsibility of other people! And prefer to keep my time for different actions now.“
The Canadian Don Bowie chose a finer blade for his replica. “Whether we perceive it or not, we rely heavily on people we both see and don’t see, people near and far away, people we acknowledge or refuse to acknowledge,” the 50-year-old wrote on Instagram. And in the end he politely thanked his climbing partners Lotta Hintsa and Denis Urubko – “despite what Denis recently wrote about me, ha”.
How commercial was the K2 attempt?
There was also trouble’s brewing after the K2 winter expedition of the Nepalese Mingma Gyalje Sherpa and his team. The Icelander John Snorri Sigurjonsson and the Slovenian Tomaz Rotar accused the expedition leader of not really being interested in the successful winter ascent. “I myself avoid the term ‚commercial expedition‘, because I have not yet received an explanation as to why some expedition would be cliche and other commercial, despite the fact that all expeditions use the same local carriers and sherpas through the same local agencies and military personnel personnel,” Rotar wrote in his blog. “With this expedition, however, I cannot get rid of the feeling, that really only served the commercial goals of some people.“
Mingma Gyalje Sherpa did not address the criticism of his expedition leadership in his review of the K2 expedition. However, Mingma wrote on Facebook that he would only be competing with a purely Nepalese team in his next winter attempt on the second highest mountain on earth – in three years’ time at the earliest.
For winter 2020/21, the Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks announced a commercial expedition to K2. Then also a Polish team will probably try to climb this eight-thousander for the first time in the cold season. That smells like new trouble. Maybe Jost Kobusch will then be en route again on Mount Everest – only busy with himself and the mountain.
Update 6 March: Mingma Gyalje Sherpa has reacted to the criticism of his expedition members and rejected the accusation that this was a commercial K2 expedition. He had refused numerous requests from potential clients who wanted to come along, Mingma wrote me: “The original plan was John and mine and I added Gao li as cameraman because he makes very good videos and pictures. Later I added Thomas because he is a doctor.“
He did not end the expedition thoughtless, says Mingma: „When I gave up because of my continuous cough and Gao Li wanted to go back home because of this deadly Corona Virus, other members lost their hope. For me, my health is important. The whole expedition ended when one of Sherpas was hit by an ice block and fell into the crevasse.“ The expedition leader explains the criticism of him as follows: “When there is success, people try to take the credit, when there is failure, people try to blame.“