Alex Txikon on the summit of Ama Dablam

Alex Txikon

Everest may come. The Spaniard Alex Txikon reached today at 10.15 a.m. local time with his compatriot Jonatan Garcia and the Nepalese Pasang Sherpa, Cheppal Sherpa and Kalden Sherpa the 6,814-meter-high summit of the shapely Ama Dablam (see the video below). “It’s been a tough ascent,” the 38-year-old reported from the highest point. “Wind hit us hard all the way up, but here we are, the five of us on top! Next, let’s start descending carefully.” In the meantime, the five climbers have returned to base camp safely.

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Alexander Huber: Cave climbing in Oman

Höhlenklettern im Oman (Route "Seventh Hole)
Cave climbing in Oman (route “Seventh Hole”)

 A new era has begun in Oman. Two weeks ago, Sultan Qabus bin Said al Said died of cancer at the age of 79. For almost half a century, the monarch had led the country on the Arabian Peninsula into the modern age as absolute ruler with a steady hand: Qabus invested primarily in education, infrastructure and tourism. “As a traveler, you experience an open country, a high degree of hospitality and a feeling of security,” writes the 51-year-old German top climber Alexander Huber.

The younger of the two Huber brothers went climbing in the desert state in December with the Canadian Read McAdam and the Austrians Guido Unterwurzacher and Jakob Oberhauser. Their destination: the famous Majlis al-Jinn cave. The dome-shaped rock hall, one of the largest in the world with 61,000 square metres of floor space, is connected to the outside by three holes in its ceiling. The quartet wanted to open a new route through the second hole.

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Slovene Grega Lacen fell to his death

Grega Lacen (1976-2020)

The mountaineering scene mourns the death of the Slovenian Grega Lacen. Last Friday the 43-year-old was en route in the mountains near the village of Jezersko, which lies in northern Slovenia near the border with Austria. On his descent down a snow-covered mountain path, Lacen apparently slipped and fell to his death over a steep wall. About 600 ascents were listed in Grega’s tour book. He also left his mark in the Himalayas and the Karakoram.

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Moro and Lunger terminate Gasherbrum winter expedition

Tamara Lunger (l.) and Simone Moro before setting off into the icefall

After a fall of Simone Moro into a crevasse on Gasherbrum I, the Italian and his South Tyrolean climbing partner Tamara Lunger have abandoned their expedition. “The winter expedition of Simone and Tamara to Gasherbrum I and II ends here”, Moro’s manager Marianna Zanatta announced. “We are happy to know that both are safe and sound.”

Full of energy and with great confidence, Moro and Lunger set off from base camp on Saturday. After ten days of hard work they had cleared a path through the icefall at the foot of Gasherbrum I and wanted, if the conditions allowed it, to pass Camp 1 at almost 6,000 meters and climb up directly to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters.

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Siegrist and Co.: Patagonia route for deceased friends

Stephan Siegrist, Nicolas Hojac and Lukas Hinterberger (from r. to l.)

It was an emotional moment for Stephan Siegrist. When the Swiss top climber and his compatriots Lukas Hinterberger and Nicolas Hojac reached the summit of the 2,600-meter-high Cerro Cachet in northern Patagonia, the now 47-year-old dropped a little doll at the highest point of the mountain. This gesture was for his friend and climbing partner Julian Zanker, who died in February 2019 at the age of only 28 years in a fall in the upper part of the Eiger North Face. Zanker was actually supposed to have been part of the Swiss Patagonia expedition. In fall 2017, Siegrist, together with Zanker and the German top climber Thomas Huber, had first climbed the central Northwest Face of the 6,150-meter-high Cerro Kishtwar in the Indian part of the troubled Kashmir province. 

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Lhakpa Sherpa: “The number of Everest climbers will decrease”

Lhakpa Sherpa

As a dishwasher to the summit of the highest mountain in the world. Lhakpa Sherpa has not only done this once. With nine ascents, the 46-year-old is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful female Everest climber. This spring, she wants to scale the highest mountain for the tenth time. In her first summit success in 2000 from the southern side of Nepal, Lhakpa was the first woman from Nepal to summit Everest and return alive – Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to reach the highest point in the world in 1993, had died on the descent. Lhakpa achieved her eight other Everest successes climbing  from the Tibetan north side.

The Sherpani lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. For twelve years Lhakpa was married to George Dijmarescu, a nine-time Everest climber born in Romania. The marriage ended in a “War of the Roses”. A US court finally granded her custody of their children after the divorce. Lhakpa’s son is now of age, the two younger daughters still live with her. To earn a living, Lhakpa Sherpa works 40 hours a week as a dishwasher in a supermarket.

Lhakpa, you want to scale Mount Everest for the tenth time next spring. Will you do it again over the Tibetan north side, again with bottled oxygen, with or without clients?

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Everest winter expedition: Kobusch reaches Lho La

Jost Kobusch

Jost Kobusch has achieved his first stage goal. According to his GPS tracker, the 27-year-old German climber reached the 6,006-meter-high Lho La, a pass on the border between Nepal and Tibet, today. Lho La is the lowest point of Everest West Ridge, which Jost says he wants to climb on his solo winter ascent.

Lho La (top center of picture)

The currently “100 percent bloody cold” (Jost), but sunny weather on the highest mountain on earth is expected to continue next week. However, meteorologists predict hurricane-force storms for the summit area of Mount Everest starting Sunday evening. At an altitude of 7,000 meters, wind speeds of at least 80 kilometers per hour are expected – anything but good conditions for an ascent over the exposed West Ridge. 

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Mingma Gyalje Sherpa: „I’ll try K2 without bottled oxygen“

Mingma Gyalje Sherpa at the foot of K2

The K2 winter expedition is in the starting blocks. Expedition leader Mingma Gyalje Sherpa is expected in Islamabad this Wednesday as the last of the seven team members. The Nepalese has scaled 13 of the 14 eight-thousanders, only Shishapangma is still missing in his collection. Before his departure for Pakistan, the 33-year-old Nepalese answered my questions that I had sent him some time ago.

Mingma, you’ve already scaled K2 twice. Why do you want to try it now in winter?

Luckily or unluckily K2 is the only eight-thousander remained to be climbed in winter. And I really wish there are Nepalese climbers in the first winter ascent list. I do feel ashamed to say we have eight out of these 14 peaks in Nepal and no Nepalese on the list of the first winter ascenders.

There have been many attempts to climb K2 in winter, all failed so far. What makes you optimistic that you can make it?

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Winter climbing and modelling on Broad Peak

Broad Peak

The way is paved for a first winter night in high camp for Denis Urubko, Don Bowie and Lotta Hintsa on their winter expedition on the eight-thousander Broad Peak in the Karakoram in Pakistan. Denis and Don ascended to Camp 1 at 5,800 meters yesterday.

“The route we set dances a delicate line between heinous, avalanche-prone snow slabs, and bullet-hard blue ice,” Don wrote on Instagram. “In summer this section is quite easy and straightforward, but in winter the mountain is stripped of snow, leaving bare ice and loose rock, and pockets of unstable snow.” Bowie was pleased with the “not bad time” of four hours it took him and Urubko for the climb – also in view of the fact that he had been struggling with illness over the past three weeks.

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8000er winter expeditions: Already or not yet in base camp

Denis Urubko at Broad Peak

The year tips over into the next. It’s high time to take another quick look at the 8000er winter expeditions that will keep us on our toes in early 2020. The Kazakh-born Denis Urubko, now a Russian with a Polish passport (or a Pole with a Russian one), the Canadian Don Bowie and the Finnish Lotta Hintsa have set up their base camp at the foot of Broad Peak. All three fought with diseases during the trekking over the Baltoro Glacier and had to swallow antibiotics. But apparently they have the worst behind them. Denis and Lotta set up a first material depot at 5,100 meters. “We’re trying to get our last member Don Bowie into fighting condition,” Lotta wrote yesterday on Instagram. “Today was the first day my lungs felt clear, and I should be ready to climb in a few days,” Don let us know last Saturday.

The Italian duo Tamara Lunger and Simone Moro should have reached the base camp at the feet of the Gasherbrum group today. Yesterday they reported from Concordia Square, the penultimate stop on their Baltoro trek. They have set their sights on the winter ascent of Gasherbrum I and if possible also Gasherbrum II.

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8000er winter expeditions run up

Broad Peak (with the shadow of K2)

The time for differences of opinion is over – at least as far as winter ascents in the northern half of the world are concerned. This Sunday marked the beginning of the two months in which the meteorological winter (1 December to 29 February) and the calendar winter (22 December to 31 March) overlap. Should a summit success be achieved by the end of February, it will be noted everywhere and by everyone as a winter ascent. At a later date, there are some (few) like Denis Urubko who complain. For the native Kazakh, who meanwhile has a Russian and a Polish passport, the climate is decisive, not the calendar. In March, he argues, the temperature and the conditions mean less winter than in December: “In this context the ‘astronomical’ year is only naked abstraction which doesn’t have a real embodiment for terrestrial conditions.“

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Runway Everest

The Nepalese models are determined by casting

Once again, Mount Everest will be used for an entry in the “Guinness Book of Records”. If everything goes as planned, the “Highest Altitude Fashion Runway“ will be held on 25 January on the 5,643-meter-high Kala Patthar, a popular trekking peak opposite Everest.

During the “Mount Everest Fashion Runway” 15 female and male models from all over the world, five of them from Nepal, will present the winter collection of a local fashion label. In order to prevent the models from suffering from high altitude sickness, they are to trek through the Khumbu region with expert guidance in order to acclimatize properly. “The team of Sherpas who shall lead the way are all locals. They know every nook and cranny of the Khumbu region,“ said Dawa Steven Sherpa, head of the expedition and trekking operator “Asian Trekking”, who was among those who presented the project in Kathmandu. The “Mount Everest Fashion Runway” is one of those activities from which the Nepalese government hopes for positive headlines worldwide as part of its PR campaign “Visit Nepal 2020“.

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Alpinism is Intangible Cultural Heritage

The Reintalanger hut near the highest German mountain Zugspitze

In the middle of the night in the dormitory of an alpine hut. I lie awake, snoring around me, mountaineers and hikers smelling for sweat and beer, ramming their elbows into my back from time to time while I try to sleep. So far I have asked myself in this situation: What am I actually doing here? Now I know: I practice intangible cultural heritage. Since yesterday, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized alpinism as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” – just like playing the harp in Ireland or driving down cattle from mountain pastures in fall in the Alps and the Mediterranean region.

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