“Everest without bottled oxygen is clearly the goal,” David Göttler writes me from the base camp at the foot of the highest mountain on earth. How exactly he wants to realize this goal – whether alone or in pairs, on which route – the 42-year-old leaves open: “At the moment, you can really only plan from day to day here.” That’s why he won’t comment on speculation currently circulating in the scene about his intentions.
In his attempt without breathing mask in spring 2019, David had turned back at an altitude of 8,650 meters because there was too much traffic on the normal route and the weather was getting worse.
David, you’ve trained with mountain runs in the Everest region. How did you experience the Khumbu in times of the pandemic? What were the people like?
It’s incredibly quiet here, in the sense of: There are no trekkers. Otherwise, it was very normal until now. At the moment it’s changing: you can see that the locals are taking the COVID-19 situation more seriously.
What was your feeling going into Everest Base Camp, where there has already been at least one confirmed corona case?
I am sure it is more than one case. Still, I hope my precautions will keep me safe there. For example, I always eat in my tent and not in the dining tent. I also don’t go into the kitchen. I always wear a mask when I see others. But we’ll see how it all turns out.
In Nepal, as in India, the number of infections is expected to rise sharply again. Do you think it’s possible that the season will be abandoned due to this, for example because the oxygen is needed in the hospitals?
Very clearly, yes. And I could well understand that then.
Actually, it was expected that there would be significantly fewer Everest aspirants this year because of the pandemic. But the government has issued a record number of permits. Do you expect similar scenes as in 2019, when there were traffic jams on the summit ridge?
If there will be only one to three days of good weather again, we will have the same scenes. That’s always the case here on Everest. There’s no need to fool yourself.
For you, as someone who wants to climb without breathing mask, a crowded mountain is doubly annoying because, especially in the so-called death zone, you can’t climb slowly. How are you going to solve this dilemma?
I hope for more good weather days, and that this will spread it out a bit more.
Update 30 April: The Spaniard Kilian Jornet has confirmed today that he wants to climb Mount Everest together with David without bottled oxygen. “When David Göttler texted me last year we didn’t need much words to plan a climb together,” Kilian wrote on Instagram. “A simple idea and a high possibility of failure summarizes perfectly what we’re searching during the next weeks in the Khumbu region.”
Previously, Spanish media had reported that Jornet was planning the “real” traverse of Mount Everest: via the West Ridge to the summit, down to the South Col and from there up to Lhotse. In spring 2017, the speed specialist had scaled Everest twice within a week via the Tibetan north side – without breathing mask.