For the second time, Jost Kobusch returns from Mount Everest with many experiences, but without a summit success. However, he had not set his sights on Everest summit this winter. His goal was to climb to 8,000 meters – if conditions allowed. But that’s exactly what didn’t happen this winter. Today, the 29-year-old German climber returned to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. His flight home is scheduled for 11 March.
Jost, you have now spent two months almost continuously at an altitude of above 5,000 meters. How are you physically?
I’m fine. Sure, you feel it, you’re losing muscles. I feel almost like an astronaut returning to earth after a long stay in the space station and having to resume training to build up muscle mass.
But the pants still fit?
They still fit. They have a drawstring that you can pull tighter.
You spent a lot of time waiting during your second Everest winter expedition. Are you now a world champion in patience?
Always these world champion sayings. (laughs) But seriously, I am someone who is very little influenced by emotions. If nothing works, then nothing works. I would say I’m basically a patient person. I wasn’t really out of it, I read my books, watched documentaries and did what I could.
You never got bored?
No, I really wasn’t. I had eleven books with me and read a lot of them. In normal life, you often don’t get to work through your long reading list. This was now a great chance to read a bit more.
You were far from your previously stated goal of breaking the 8,000-meter mark this time because of the almost permanent bad weather. Still, you say you’re satisfied with your expedition overall. How does that add up?
It’s quite simple: If there are external circumstances that I can’t influence and that cause it not to work out, what should I be angry about? It was out of my control.
You let it be known via social networks that you have learned a lot in the past two months on Everest. What exactly?
One important point is that this year I did without a traditional base camp, with tents, cooks and all that stuff. And I found that this actually works much better for a winter expedition and for this route. My base camp (in the village of Lobuche in the Everest Glacier Valley) could not collapse or fly away, it does not shake, it is not noisy, it is not permanently minus 20 degrees cold in the tent. If I stay in the village and use the infrastructure that is already there, I not only avoid a huge logistics chain, but I have more security and more comfort. And I can recover better. It was a good idea that worked out great.
And what were the learning effects on the mountain?
Let’s put it this way: I now know exactly the limits of different types of tents when it comes to extreme wind conditions. I have destroyed a total of five tents: three of them total losses, and the wind sawed holes in the wall of two of them. This winter was also not only very windy, but also much colder than others. You could feel that even here in Kathmandu. I used electric heating soles for the first time and found that under certain circumstances it works well or not. Overall, I learned a lot about the possibilities and limitations of equipment. It gave me new perspectives and a lot for strategic planning.
You wrecked five tents. Did you even have that many with you or did you have to reorder?
I borrowed tents from the agency I work with in Nepal. And they brought me more tents in between. Sure, I’ve bent poles before or maybe even damaged a tent wall a little bit. But never in my life have I completely destroyed a tent. And now three, plus two very badly damaged. It’s just been a tough winter.
You were stuck in a storm for a few days this winter at almost 6,500 meters, on the West Ridge route, with no chance of climbing further in this weather. Did you think about whether the challenging route you planned to tackle – in winter, solo, without bottled oxygen – might be too ambitious?
No way. I have already reached this highest point this year on 5 January and spent the night in this Camp 3. At that time, at the beginning of the winter, the conditions were very good and I could have climbed further. But I decided to descend for strategic reasons, in order to push even higher next time with fresh energy. Unfortunately, this next time didn’t happen because of the jet stream. The conditions were just particularly bad this year, but everything else went extremely well.
The second chapter in your personal Everest book is closed. Do you already have plans for a third one or are you putting the book aside for now?
I won’t be back at the start next winter, but the winter after next, so 2023/24.
So you’re taking a year off from Everest, just like last time.
Yes, the whole thing still has to be fun. The project is just too tough to tackle it every year.
You’ve been on the road for months now. What are you looking forward to the most?
To be able to train really well again, paragliding, sport climbing, mountaineering, to really push your physical limits again without thinking that you’ll lose muscle mass and become weaker.