Anja Blacha after Kangchenjunga success: “Never had such heavy legs on the descent”

Anja Blacha
Anja Blacha

Now no other woman from Germany has stood on eight-thousanders more often than Anja Blacha. The mountaineer, who celebrates her 34th birthday on 18 June, achieved a last-minute summit success on the 8,586-meter-high Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, at the end of the spring season on the eight-thousanders in Nepal. She had already scaled the 8,485-meter-high Makalu, the fifth-highest of all mountains, on 12 May. On both mountains, Anja climbed on the normal routes, with teams from the commercial expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST) and did without bottled oxygen herself.

These were her seventh and eighth eight-thousanders after Mount Everest (in 2017 and 2021), Broad Peak, K2 (both in 2019), Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I and II (these three in 2023). Only on Everest did she use a breathing mask on her ascents. This means that the German mountaineer now has one more eight-thousander summit success to her name than Alix von Melle, who has summited seven eight-thousanders to date. Anja Blacha answered my questions after her return from Kangchenjunga.

Thank you very much. I am of course delighted that I was able to climb two of the high eight-thousanders this season without bottled oxygen. But I’m not looking to compete with other German female high-altitude climbers, and success can be measured by so many different factors, especially in the mountains. So a comparative “most successful” has no real meaning for me.

In the summit zone of Makalu
In the summit zone of Makalu

The Makalu ascent went very smoothly. The summit had been opened up early in the season and there were many days with good conditions, so I was able to acclimatize quickly and was able to stand on the summit just over two weeks after my arrival at base camp.

High up on Kangchenjunga
High up on Kangchenjunga

I had speculated that there would be a major summit ascent on Kangchenjunga at the end of May that I could join. It was attempted, but apart from (the Poles) Bartek Ziemski and Oswald Rodrigo Pereira, who made an impressive solo ascent to the summit, everyone dropped out.

While the expedition team’s tents were packed up at base camp and the teams that were still expected canceled their arrival, another female climber and I took the initiative to coordinate a final summit ascent with SST. This meant that we had already entered the summer season, but the snow and wind conditions were still good and we were able to successfully complete the expedition with a small but strong team.

The lower stages are not particularly difficult compared to the other eight-thousanders I know. The final summit ascent is more interesting.

From Camp 4, which is traditionally not lower than 7,500 meters, Kangchenjunga has one of the longest summit days of all eight-thousanders. From 7,200 meters, where the camp was located this year, the route is even longer. It gets rocky in the upper part and requires more focus. I would say that I have never had legs as heavy as on the descent from Kangchenjunga on any of the eight-thousanders.

Makalu is structurally quite similar to Kangchenjunga, but a bit shorter and easier overall.

View from Makalu to Everest (r.) and Lhotse
View from Makalu to Everest (r.) and Lhotse

Not yet, but I actually only wanted to go to the Himalayas in the fall this year. The fact that I was already there in spring came rather spontaneously.

Personally, I have mostly experienced the mountains as a safe place. Unfortunately, there are always exceptions, just as you can experience in other areas of life. However, in my opinion, the current public accusations are just the tip of the iceberg.

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