It could be another record season on Mount Everest. Until last Tuesday, the Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu alone issued 374 climbing permits for the south side of the world’s highest mountain. On the north side, the Chinese-Tibetan authorities have limited the number of climbing permits to 300 this spring. Last year, according to the mountaineering chronicle “Himalayan Database”, 802 climbers reached the summit at 8,850 meters, only one without bottled oxygen: 32-year-old Sonam Finju Sherpa.
This season, too, only a few mountaineers will try to scale Everest without breathing mask. One of them will be David Göttler, who arrived in Kathmandu today. “Nowadays many people think it’s easy because there’s no differentiation between oxygen aspirants and the few without,” the 40-year-old German. “But to make it to the top ‘without diving equipment’ is still not easy. Everything has to fit. And so it would also mean an awful lot to me to reach the summit.”
Two almost-attempts on Everest
David has scaled five eight-thousanders so far, all without bottled oxygen: Gasherbrum II (in 2006) Broad Peak (in 2007), Dhaulagiri (in 2008), Lhotse (in 2009) and Makalu (in 2013). Göttler wanted to tackle Everest without breathing mask already twice, in 2014 from the south, in 2015 with his German friend Daniel Bartsch and the Canadian Raphael Slawinski via a new route on the Tibetan north side. But both seasons ended before they had really started: in 2014 because of the avalanche accident in the Khumbu Icefall with 16 deaths, in 2015 due to the devastating earthquake in Nepal.
Pre-acclimatization in the Khumbu region
At the beginning of March David was staying for pre-acclimatization in the Khumbu region, in the village of Chukhung at about 4,700 meters near Everest. Afterwards he trained as high as possible in the Mont Blanc massif around Chamonix. Göttler and his partner Monica Piris regularly spend the winter there, the summer in Monica’s home in northern Spain, between Bilbao and Santander, “where Spain is still really green”, says David. From Kathmandu he now wants to leave again for Chukhung and from there to Everest.
With patience and the right tactics
Since Göttler wants to climb without bottled oxygen, it is especially important for him to move quickly and not to stay too long in the death zone above the South Col. But how can he do this if several hundred clients from the commercial expeditions block the normal route? “I hope I can escape the waiting at the bottlenecks with patience (don’t start at the first good weather window) and tactics (choose the right day time to set off),” replies David.
“Better prepared than ever before”
Göttler has traveled the world’s highest mountains long enough to know that the success of his project cannot be taken for granted. “On the summit day everything has to fit, from the weather, to my form on the day, the equipment, the other people on the mountain,” says David. “I know I’ve prepared better than ever for an eight-thousander. That makes me confident. Now I hope that everything that is not in my power will be well too.”