The Nepalese Tenjen Sherpa and the Norwegian Kristin Harila continue their time chase on the eight-thousanders. Today the two – with five other companions – reached the summit of Gasherbrum I at 8,080 meters. Three days ago they had scaled Gasherbrum II. G I was the twelfth eight-thousander success for Tenjin and Kristin in just under three months. They now still need Broad Peak and K2 to achieve their goal of ticking off all 14 eight-thousanders in a few months.
After their summit success on Nanga Parbat, Harila and Tenjen had themselves been flown from the town of Skardu to Gasherbrum base camp in a military helicopter. According to reports, such a flight currently costs up to 20,000 dollars. In Skardu, Harila had asked her fans via social networks for donations so that she could complete her project in the face of skyrocketing costs.
Not a pioneering act
The German magazine “Alpin” had asked me for a statement on what I thought of Harila’s eight-thousander hunt. This was my answer:
The first summit successes of the summer season on the eight-thousanders Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II are reported from the Karakoram in Pakistan. “I’m standing on the summit at 8,051 meters,” Horia Colibasanu announced today via satellite phone from Broad Peak. “It was a strenuous twelve-hour climb. A very long ridge. (A) very difficult summit because I didn’t know which of the ridge tops was the actual summit. I climbed up, I’m tired, I want to start the descent as soon as possible and I hope to get to base camp as soon as possible.” For the 46-year-old Romanian, it was the tenth eight-thousander he scaled without bottled oxygen and without a Sherpa companion.
On 2 July, Anja now stood – as reported – on the 8,125-meter-high summit of Nanga Parbat in Pakistan – without bottled oxygen and without Sherpa companion, as announced by the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks. To speak of a solo ascent, however, would be wrong. The 33-year-old German also used the fixed ropes previously laid on the normal route. After her summit success, I sent Anja five questions. Here are her answers:
Anja, first of all, congratulations on your ascent of Nanga Parbat. How were the conditions on the summit day?
The first fatality of the summer season on the five eight-thousanders of Pakistan is reported from Nanga Parbat. According to Polish media, Polish climber Pawel Kopec died in Camp 4 at about 7,300 meters, apparently dehydrated and suffering from high altitude sickness. On Sunday, he – like his compatriots Piotr Krzyzowski and Waldemar Kowalewski – had reached the summit at 8,125 meters without bottled oxygen. During the descent, the 38-year-old became weaker and weaker, according to Kowalewski.
Hermann Buhl is a stubborn man. It does not bother him in these first days of July 1953 that down in Nanga Parbat Base Camp the expedition leader Karl Maria Herrligkoffer gives several times the signal to turn back. The German may be good as a fundraiser and organizer of expeditions, but not as a climber.
In contrast to Buhl, who at 28 is in top form: In 1952, the Austrian was the first person in the Alps to climb the Northeast Face of Piz Badile solo, and in February he climbed the Watzmann East Face, also solo and in winter. And now he sees a good chance to scale Nanga Parbat, this eight-thousander in Pakistan that the Nazis had declared and glorified as the “German mountain of fate“.
1,225 meters of altitude and more than six kilometers of distance still lie between the highest camp and the summit. When his tent partner Otto Kempter is not ready to leave at the agreed time, Buhl trudges off alone – without bottled oxygen. “It is starry, the crescent moon shines down and casts silvery light on the ridge rising before me, it is windless, yet clear,” Buhl later writes.
“Failed successfully” – that’s how I described my failure on the seven-thousander Putha Hiunchuli in western Nepal more than a decade ago, where I turned around 150 meters below the summit – completely exhausted. I knew at that moment and afterwards that it was the only possible and correct decision for me. I did not struggle with it. It was rather my environment that did that.
Perhaps David Göttler will have a similar experience. The German top mountaineer had planned to climb the eight-thousander Nanga Parbat together with the Frenchman Benjamin Védrines in alpine style – i.e. without bottled oxygen, without fixed high camps, without high altitude porters and without fixed ropes. Through the Rupal Face, via the so-called “Schell route” (named after the Austrian Hanns Schell, who climbed it in 1976). At 7,500 meters, already on the Diamir side of Nanga Parbat, Göttler and Védrines turned around.
The first eight-thousander summit successes of commercial expeditions this summer in Pakistan were achieved today on Nanga Parbat. About two dozen climbers reportedly reached the summit of the ninth highest mountain on earth at 8,125 meters. Among them was the Pakistani Sajid Ali Sadpara, who, according to his own information, climbed without bottled oxygen and was part of the rope-fixing team.
For the 25-year-old son of the legendary Muhammad Ali Sadpara (1976-2021), it was the seventh of the 14 eight-thousanders. Sajid climbed six of them without breathing mask: Gasherbrum I and II, as well as Manaslu in 2022, Annapurna, Mount Everest and now Nanga Parbat in 2023. Only on his two ascents of K2 (in 2019 and 2022) did he use bottled oxygen. Sajid’s stated goal is to scale all 14 eight-thousanders without breathing mask.
I was in the Khumbu for the first time more than 20 years ago. I count the increase in aircraft noise as one of the most noticeable changes in the region around the highest mountain on earth. Without helicopters, there seems to be very little going on in the Khumbu.
Construction continues in the small mountain village of Rama in the far west of Nepal. The shell of the first school building is almost finished. It was made possible with your donations for my aid project “School up – far west”. Now the second building wing with eight rooms is under construction.
In addition, the local government financed a protective wall behind the school to prevent the slope from sliding. One of the landslides that occur repeatedly in Humla District had meant that Rama’s old school could no longer be used. “We are so worried that our children have had to be taught in the open for the past two years,” says Jamuna Thapa. “So I would like to ask that the building be constructed as soon as possible.”
Even if you might turn up your nose at the alpinistic value of the project, Kristin Harila shows what is possible on the eight-thousanders in terms of time – if one gathers around oneself not just one but many strong companions, has the necessary fitness and determination, climbs with bottled oxygen and via the normal routes, uses infrastructure such as helicopters and, of course, also has the necessary small change.
“No mountain, not even a first ascent, is worth dying for or even freezing a finger off for. With a little distance, everyone will realize that, too,” Luis Stitzinger told me before we set off in 2014 for the previously unclimbed seven-thousander Kokodak Dome in western China. Nine years later, Luis is dead – having died after the 54-year-old scaled the 8,586-meter-high eight-thousander Kangchenjunga in eastern Nepal without bottled oxygen. As reported, a Sherpa search team found him yesterday at around 8,400 meters, lying lifeless in the snow. I couldn’t help but think of his words back then and wonder: was it worth it?
“Of course not,” Luis might reply. “But I was aware that I was doing a risky sport and might not return from the mountains one day. And I died doing what was my life and my passion. And where I was happiest: in the mountains.” Kangchenjunga, writes his wife Alix von Melle today in a moving last (public) greeting to Luis, was his “very big life dream which you still wanted to fulfill so much. Your eyes shone with enthusiasm when you spoke of it.” I feel for Alix – and remember Luis.
All hope was in vain, now it is sad certainty. Luis Stitzinger, one of the most successful high-altitude climbers in Germany, is dead. A Sherpa search team of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST) found 54-year-old on Kangchenjunga lifeless at an altitude of about 8,400 meters, SST chairman Mingma Sherpa told the Kathmandu-based newspaper The Himalayan Times. The climber’s body is now being brought down, he added. This information was also confirmed to me by mountaineer Alix von Melle, Stitzinger’s wife.
Luis had reached the summit of the third highest mountain on earth at 8,586 meters last Thursday at around 5 p.m. local time without bottled oxygen, the last of a number of climbers to reach the top that day. Around 9 p.m., he had sent another radio message. It was Luis’ last sign of life. He had been missing since then. As reported, a search team with bottled oxygen had ascended from base camp yesterday. According to Mingma, it consisted of five Sherpas.
The weather god had mercy. After fog had prevented the helicopter from taking off yesterday in the lower altitudes around the eight-thousander Kangchenjunga in eastern Nepal, it cleared up this morning Nepalese local time. The four-man Sherpa search team of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks was dropped off at base camp at around 5,150 meters and set off uphill. The plan was to reach Camp 4, the last high camp before the summit, at around 7.600 meters today if possible. The Sherpas climbed with bottled oxygen to make fast progress.
As reported, Luis Stitzinger, one of the most successful German high-altitude mountaineers, has been missing since Thursday evening in the upper area of the mountain. According to previous findings, the 54-year-old, who was en route without a breathing mask, was the last climber to reach the summit at 8,585 meters that day at around 5 pm. The last contact with him was a radio message around 9 pm. At this time, Luis was, according to his own information, at an altitude of about 8,300 meters. He had skis with him. Whether he also used them is unclear. After all, it was already dark at the time of the radio call. Luis did not arrive at Camp 4. Position data from his Garmin device is not available, which makes the search more difficult. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for a small miracle!
P.S. I am receiving many questions about Luis’ disappearance. I continue to urge you not to speculate on his fate, nor to badger his wife Alix. We will continue to provide you with the facts. As long as there is still hope, the search for Luis should be absolutely in focus!
Luis Stitzinger, one of the most successful German high-altitude mountaineers, has been missing since Thursday evening local time in the upper area of the eight-thousander Kangchenjunga in eastern Nepal. According to information from his wife, mountaineer Alix von Melle, Luis reached the summit of the third highest mountain on earth at around 5 p.m. – as the last climber of a group standing on the highest point at 8,586 meters that day.
The 54-year-old climbed without bottled oxygen and had his skis with him because he planned to ski down Kangchenjunga if possible. At around 9 p.m., Stitzinger was once again in contact with the base camp team of the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST), Alix said.