Thomas Huber: “I don’t need an eight-thousander”

Thomas Huber, in 2015
Thomas Huber

When Thomas Huber talks about freedom in the mountains, his eyes light up. “Mountains are so much more than just a name, an ascent or a record,” the older of the two Huber brothers tells me. “Mountains give you the opportunity to find something very special. Within yourself. Your inner freedom.” Thomas is now 57 years old. After losing his hunting dog Cerro, who was run over last winter, he decided to give up expeditions this year. Instead, he concentrated on training his new dog Torre – and returning to his mountaineering roots: extreme climbing.

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Alpinism: Six commandments of good style

Three 8000ers at a glance: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu (from left to right)
Three 8000ers at a glance: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu (from left to right)

The style debate in the mountaineering scene is gathering pace – not least because of the events on the eight-thousanders this year: 17 deaths on Mount Everest in the spring season; the record-breaking hunts by Norwegian Kristin Harila and Nepalese Tenjen Sherpa and others; the death of Pakistani high altitude porter Muhammad Hassan on K2; the four avalanche victims on Shishapangma, including Tenjen Sherpa.

In recent days, top mountaineers such as the Spaniards Kilian Jornet and the brothers Eneko and Iker Pou have commented on the question of whether everything that is possible should really be allowed in the mountains. I would particularly like to recommend Kilian’s essay to you. “Climbing style holds profound significance in the Himalayas, extending beyond personal preferences,” writes the 36-year-old. “As climbers, we are more than just athletes; we are stewards of these majestic mountains and paving the way for future generations. Every decision we make while climbing has consequences for the environment and others, shaping the future of climbing itself.”

I have tried to put together some conditions that I believe are necessary for a mountain project not only to be responsible, but also to advance alpinism. Hopefully this makes it clear that I am addressing climbers who are at the highest level of climbing. But there may also be some food for thought for the “normal” mountaineer.

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Paul Ramsden after another first ascent of a six-thousander in Nepal: “Anything but alpine style is cheating”

Ascent and descent route by Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller on Surma-Sarovar in western Nepal
Ascent and descent route by Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller on Surma-Sarovar in western Nepal

Paul Ramsden and Tim Miller have done it again: the two Brits managed another first ascent of a six-thousander in Nepal this fall – in alpine style (without bottled oxygen, without Sherpa support, without fixed ropes and without fixed high camps) and on a difficult route. Paul and Tim climbed the North Face of Surma-Sarovar in the far west of the country. The 6,574-meter-high mountain is located in the Salimor Khola Valley in the Gurans Himal, close to Nepal’s border with Tibet and India. “Possibly the most remote location I have ever been to, and we managed to climb a great route,” Paul wrote to me after his return from Nepal. He and Miller have thus achieved yet another feat of alpinism.

I had actually sent Paul some questions three weeks ago on the occasion of the Piolets d’Or award ceremony in Briancon on 15 November. Paul’s wife then informed me that he and Tim were still in Nepal. Ramsden and Miller will receive the “Oscar of Mountaineering” – as reported – for their first ascent of the 6,563-meter-high Jugal Spire in Nepal last year. Paul is the first mountaineer to be awarded the prestigious prize for the fifth time. Here are the answers from the 54-year-old top climber from Yorkshire in northern England.

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UN Secretary-General Guterres on climate change in the Himalayas: “We must stop this madness”

Sunrise on Gokyo Ri with a view of the eight-thousanders Everest, Lhotse and Makalu
Three 8000ers at a glance: Everest, Lhotse, Makalu (From l. to r.)

High-ranking visitor to the world’s highest mountains. António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was in Nepal this week to see for himself the consequences of climate change in the Himalayas. The Portuguese made a detour to the Everest region and the base camp on the south side of the eight-thousander Annapurna I and was informed by locals – including mountaineer Dawa Steven Sherpa, WWF ambassador for climate change – about the effects of rising temperatures. 

“I am here in the Himalayas where glaciers are melting at a record level. Like in Greenland, like in Antarctica. Sea levels are rising,” said Guterres in Khumbu. ” And here we see floods, we see landslides, we see communities being dramatically impacted. We must stop this madness.”

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Russian expedition abandons Cho Oyu expedition – first ascents on six-thousanders

Cho Oyu (in the center of the picture the mentioned rock tower)
Cho Oyu (in the center of the picture the mentioned rock tower)

For the time being there is no new route on the Nepalese south side of the eight-thousander Cho Oyu. A five-member Russian team abandoned its attempt to reach – without bottled oxygen – the summit at 8,188 meters via the still unclimbed South-Southwest ridge and headed home.

Gale-force winds had prevented further ascent, the team announced on the website of the Russian Mountaineering Federation. In addition, time was running out. “The main reason for turning back was the understanding that there was still infinitely much ahead,” expedition leader Andrey Vasiliev told “We had about four kilometers left to the top.”

For weeks, Vasiliev, Viktoria Klimenko, Vitaly Shipilov, Sergei Kondrashkin and Kirill Eizeman had worked their way up – repeatedly stopped by bad weather that forced them to retreat. Their highest point reached was around 7,350 meters, below a high rock tower.

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Piolets d’Or for three routes on six-thousanders

Logo of the Piolets d'Or

The alpinistic music is currently not playing on the eight-thousanders, but on lower peaks. This is also demonstrated by the three groundbreaking climbs that will be awarded Piolets d’Or this year. The “Oscars of Mountaineering” will be handed out on 15 November in Briancon in the French Alps.

One Golden Ice Axe each will be given to three teams that have opened extremely challenging routes on six-thousanders. Already on the longlist, the pre-selection of the 53 “significant ascents” of the year 2022, neither tours on eight-thousanders nor on seven-thousanders had appeared, but instead 16 new routes on six-thousanders. The last Piolet d’Or for an eight-thousander ascent had been awarded in 2018 to the two Czechs Marek Holecek and Zdenek Hak, after they had climbed for the first time through the complete Southwest Face of Gasherbrum I in the Karakoram.

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Rousseau, Marvell and Cornell pull off a coup on the 7000er Jannu

Matt Cornell, Alan Rousseau and Jackson Marvell on the summit of Jannu
Matt Cornell, Alan Rousseau and Jackson Marvell (from l. to r.) on the summit of Jannu.

It’s projects like this that show that alpinism is far from dead – even if the crisis of meaning in eight-thousander mountaineering sometimes makes it seem that way. The U.S. Americans Alan Rousseau, Jackson Marvell and Matt Cornell opened a new route on the 7,710-meter-high Jannu in eastern Nepal through the extremely steep, demanding and therefore rarely climbed North Face. It was the first time the 2,700-meter-high so-called “Wall of Shadows” had been mastered in alpine style – that is, without bottled oxygen, fixed high camps, fixed ropes or Sherpa support.

“So for three years I’ve been trying to climb the North Face of Jannu in alpine style with Matt and Jackson,” Alan Rousseau writes on Instagram. “We finally got it done! In a 7 day push BC (Base Camp) to BC.” The three climbers christened their route “Round trip ticket”.

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Fatal fall on Dhaulagiri – mourning for Nadya Oleneva

Dhaulagiri in the first daylight
Dhaulagiri (in 2004)

Miracles – like last spring’s survival of Indian climber Anurag Maloo in a crevasse on Annapurna – are unfortunately the exception on eight-thousanders. On the 8167-meter Dhaulagiri, not far away, Russian climber Nadya Oleneva died in a fall yesterday. This is reported by the Russian mountaineering portal

According to this information, Oleneva had set out on Friday with her Russian compatriots Roman Abildaev and Rasim Kashapov for a summit attempt without bottled oxygen. Yesterday, they climbed separately and rope-free from Camp 1 at 6,050 meters towards Camp 2 at 6,880 meters. After Roman and Rasim arrived there shortly after each other, they wondered where Elena was, who had been only a short time behind them. Rasim searched for her in vain, but spotted one of her sticks and a slide down track into the depths. The two immediately requested a helicopter rescue and descended to base camp. The helicopter could not take off until today, Sunday. Oleneva’s lifeless body was discovered at an altitude of about 6,100 meters.

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Anurag Maloo, survivor on Annapurna I: “Never take a mountain lightly”

Anurag Maloo
Anurag Maloo

“We saw last year on Manaslu and this year on Shishapangma that even the easiest mountain can become the most difficult one, depending on the weather condition or different circumstances,” Anurag Maloo tells me. “Mountaineering is not a race, it’s your own individual journey with the mountains you go to. You shouldn’t compare yourself to others, whether it’s the 14 eight-thousanders or the Seven Summits or whatever. People shouldn’t feel that kind of a competitive mindset.”

The Indian mountaineer was referring to the avalanches in fall 2022 on the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal, in which the Nepalese Anup Rai and Dawa Chhiring Sherpa and the American ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson were killed. On the other hand, the avalanches of last Saturday on Shishapangma in Tibet, in which the US-American Anna Gutu and her Nepalese mountain guide Mingmar Sherpa as well as Gina Marie Rzucidlo, also from the USA, and her Nepalese mountain guide Tenjen “Lama” Sherpa lost their lives. Others on the ground – such as the Pakistani climber Naila Kiani – had reported a real race between the two U.S. climbers with hard bandages. Both wanted to be the first woman from the USA on all 14 eight-thousanders.

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Shishapangma: Mourning for four avalanche victims


The Chinese-Tibetan authorities have pulled the brakes. After two avalanches hit the summit zone of the eight-thousander Shishapangma on Saturday, they declared that “all climbing activities have been suspended in view of the unstable snow conditions on the mountain.” Apparently, this applies not only currently, but also for the rest of the fall season.

On Saturday, as reported, the US American Anna Gutu and her Nepalese mountain guide Mingmar Sherpa had died in a first avalanche. Their bodies had been found – unlike those of Gina Marie Rzucidlo, also from the U.S., and her Nepalese mountain guide Tenjen “Lama” Sherpa, who were swept away by another avalanche about two hours later. The search for the two missing people was suspended.

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Avalanche on Shishapangma: Two dead, two missing


Sad news from the eight-thousander Shishapangma: According to the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, the American climber Anna Gutu and her Nepalese guide Mingmar Sherpa died today in an avalanche accident on the 8,027-meter-high mountain in Tibet. Gina Marie Rzucidlo, also from the U.S. and her Nepalese mountain guide Tenjen “Lama” Sherpa were reported missing. Apparently there is little hope of recovering the two missing alive.

Naila Kiani and Sirbaz Khan, both from Pakistan, who were also on the mountain and eyewitnessed the disaster, spoke of four dead. They abandoned their summit attempt and descended back to Camp 1. They were “very shaken and distressed” after witnessing how the avalanche swept their friends to their deaths, they let it be known via Instagram. Apparently, two avalanches had gone off at an altitude of around 7,800 meters. The four climbers ascending on the normal route had been caught by the snow masses.

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“School up – far west”: Another ceiling concreted

Concreting of the second floor slab
Concreting of the second floor slab

The construction of the school in the small mountain village of Rama in the far west of Nepal is progressing. According to Shyam Pandit, the program coordinator of the German aid organization Nepalhilfe Beilngries in the Himalayan state, the second floor slab of the second school building has now been concreted. You made it possible – through your donation for “School up – far west”. I had started the project in summer 2022. It is also supported by the Austrian top mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner.

At the moment, there is relatively stable and largely dry fall weather in Humla District, where the village of Rama is located. A good time to build. In winter, if at all, only interior work will probably be possible. On the one hand, because of the precipitation and the sometimes bitter cold – for example, in winter 2021/2022, the schools were closed for two months because of the extremely low temperatures. On the other hand, because it will be no longer possible to transport materials over the makeshift pistes in snow and ice.

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Summit successes on Cho Oyu

Tibetan side of Cho Oyu
Tibetan side of Cho Oyu

The weather gods remain in favor of the commercial expedition teams this fall. After numerous summit successes on Manaslu and some on Dhaulagiri – both eight-thousanders are located in western Nepal – the first ascents of the season of Cho Oyu are also reported from Tibet today. Operator Imagine Nepal announced that eight team members led by company head Mingma Gyalje Sherpa reached thesummit of the sixth-highest mountain on earth at 8,188 meters, “just five days after crossing the Tibet border, as they were well acclimatized from their Manaslu expedition”

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Summit successes reported from Dhaulagiri

The 8,167-meter-high Dhaulagiri in western Nepal

As the commercial climbing season on fall “fashion” eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal draws to a close, the first summit successes are being reported from Dhaulagiri, not far away. According to the Nepalese operator Seven Summit Treks, at least 13 members of theirs team reached the summit at 8,167 meters today.

Among them, in addition to the Sherpas who fixed the ropes to the highest point, was also (with bottled oxygen) the founder of the company, Mingma Sherpa. This means that Mingma has now undoubtedly reached all the “True Summits” of the eight-thousanders, SST announced. The now 45-year-old, celebrated in 2011 as the first Nepalese on all 14 eight-thousanders, had also scaled Manaslu again nine days ago to make up for not having stood on the very highest point before.

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Pioneer and mentor: Marko Prezelj receives the Paul Preuss Prize

Marko Prezelj
Marko Prezelj

Actually, Marko Prejelj is a skeptic when it comes to climbers being awarded. “Basically it’s impossible to compare any climbs, because every climb has a different emotion,” the Slovenian told me in Chamonix in 2015 at the award ceremony for the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of climbers”. “It’s bizarre. It’s like you are making love and making an article out of it. If it’s poetry, maybe it’s okay. But it is a thin line between romantic poetry and pornography.”

If it goes by that, Marko is a great poet of the mountains. It’s not for nothing that – despite his aversion to prizes – he was the first mountaineer to be awarded the Piolet d’Or four times: in 1992, 2007, 2015 and 2016. Apart from him, only the Briton Paul Ramsden has managed this so far.

This Saturday, Prezelj will receive another trophy, the prestigious Paul Preuss Prize, at Reinhold Messner’s Mountain Museum at Sigmundskron Castle near Bolzano. The award has been presented for ten years to “extreme mountaineers or climbers who, in the course of their entire mountaineering development, have not only shown outstanding achievements in the mountains, but have also dedicated themselves to free climbing in the spirit of Paul Preuss’ philosophy with the renunciation of technical ascending gear,” the international Paul Preuss Society lets it be known. The jury is formed by the honorary chairman Messner, last year’s laureate (in the current case Thomas Huber, who was awarded in 2022) and five other members of the society. It is not a “current peak performance” that counts, but the “mountaineering life’s work,” the society emphasizes.

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