Anja Blacha after her summit success on Nanga Parbat: “Emotionally moving descent”

Anja Blacha
Anja Blacha

Anja Blacha is Superwomen,” said Wladimir Klitschko three years ago in his video blog “Klitschko’s Corner” . Not only the former professional boxing world champion from Ukraine was heavily impressed by the German adventuress. At the turn of 2019/2020, Anja Blacha had hiked 1,381 kilometers on skis – solo and unsupported – from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole. In 2019, she became the first German woman to reach the summit of K2, the second highest mountain on earth. She did it without bottled oxygen. That same summer, she stood on the neighboring eight-thousander Broad Peak, also without a breathing mask. She has scaled Mount Everest – with supplemental oxygen – from both the Tibetan north side (in 2017) and the Nepalese south side (in 2021). In 2017, she had already completed her collection of the Seven Summits,”the highest mountains on all continents.

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?

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Polish climber dies on Nanga Parbat – Anja Blacha without breathing mask at the top

Nanga Parbat
The Diamir side of Nanga Parbat

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.

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70 years ago today: Hermann Buhl succeeds in making the first ascent of Nanga Parbat

Hermann Buhl in 1953
Hermann Buhl in 1953

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.

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Nanga Parbat: Göttler and Védrines turn back at 7,500 meters

David Göttler on ascent on Nanga Parbat
David Göttler on ascent on Nanga Parbat

“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.

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Summit successes reported from Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat
The Diamir side of Nanga Parbat

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.

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Göttler and Barmasse abandon Nanga Parbat winter expedition

David Göttler on Nanga Parbat, in the background Hervé Barmasse
David Göttler on Nanga Parbat, in the background Hervé Barmasse

“The long term weather forecast confirms that there is not a decent weather window on the horizon. The jet stream is sitting very comfortably stable just above the summit of Nanga Parbat,” writes German climber David Göttler from base camp at the foot of the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan.

His Italian team partner Hervé Barmasse adds that wind speeds of 70 to 200 kilometers per hour are expected in the summit area. “And as it almost always happens, after such a strong wind, the heavy snowfalls will start again, making the wait at base camp pointless.” So after about four weeks, Göttler and Barmasse will pitch down their tents in Pakistan and return home.

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Winter expeditions: Difficult conditions on Mount Everest, Nanga Parbat and Manaslu.

Jost Kobusch at the "Pyramid", the Italian research station near Lobuche in the Everest Valley
Jost Kobusch at the “Pyramid”, the Italian research station near Lobuche in the Everest Valley

Blank ice or deep snow – this is how the eight-thousanders are currently presenting themselves to climbers attempting them this winter. “Compared to last time, the conditions are much icier,” Jost Kobusch tells me.

Just over a week ago, he had climbed Mount Everest towards the West Shoulder, on the same route that had taken him to just below 7,400 meters during his first winter attempt two years ago. As he did then, this year Jost is again climbing solo and without bottled oxygen. “There wasn’t as much snowfall as last time. And the little snow didn’t stay on the ice, of course, but was immediately blown away.”

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Mount Everest, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat: Snowfall slows down winter expeditions

Jost Kobusch on the ascent towards Everest West Ridge

It will probably be a base camp weekend. Whether on Mount Everest and Manaslu in Nepal or on Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, meteorologists are expecting snowfall this weekend on all eight-thousanders where climbers are already staying in order to climb these mountains this winter.

Jost Kobusch is recovering – according to his GPS tracker – in the village of Lobuche at nearly 5,000 meters from his previous days’ climb towards the West Shoulder of Everest. The maximum altitude his tracker showed was 6,464 meters yesterday (Thursday) before he descended back into the Khumbu Glacier Valley via the Lho La, a 6000-meter pass between Nepal and Tibet.

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David Göttler on Nanga Parbat: “Probably via the Schell route”

David Göttler (l.) and Hervé Barmasse (r.)
David Göttler (l.) and Hervé Barmasse (r.)

The “naked mountain” – that’s Nanga Parbat translated – is still naked as far as successful winter ascents via the southeast-facing Rupal flank, the highest mountain wall in the world, are concerned. The only two winter summit successes so far on the 8,125-meter-high mountain in Pakistan have been via the northwest side, the Diamir flank: the first winter ascent in 2016 by Spaniard Alex Txikon, Italian Simone Moro and Pakistani Muhammad Ali “Sadpara” (South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger turned back 70 meters below the summit) and the second one by Frenchwoman Elisabeth Revol and Pole Tomek Mackiewicz (who died on the descent) in 2018. 

This winter, top German climber David Göttler (43 years old) and Italian Hervé Barmasse (44) plan to climb Nanga Parbat via the Rupal side – in clean style, without fixed ropes and bottled oxygen. The American Mike Arnold (34), who accompanied the two to Pakistan, will “as planned soon travel back towards home,” as David writes me from the base camp at 3,500 meters. “Only Hervé and I will attempt the mountain.”

Together in Tibet in spring 2017

David has been on this side of Nanga Parbat in winter before: in 2014, he made it to the Mazeno Ridge at 7,200 meters on the so-called “Schell Route” (named after Austrian Hanns Schell, who climbed there in 1976) before turning back due to bad weather. In spring 2017, Göttler and Barmasse climbed together in Tibet through the South Face of the eight-thousander Shishapangma – up to five meters below the summit.

David, how does it feel for you to be back on Nanga Parbat – eight years after your first winter attempt?

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Winter expedition on Nanga Parbat: Everything must fit

Nanga Parbat Base Camp (in the background the Rupal Face)

The base camp at the foot of Nanga Parbat is pitched. And when the German David Göttler, the Italian Hervé Barmasse and the American Mike Arnold look out of their tents, they see the Rupal Face of the eight-thousander Nanga Parbat – “an almost 4,500-meter-high wall of snow, ice and rock,” as Hervé said in an interview with the Italian sports newspaper La Gazetta dello Sport: “It is the highest wall in the world, and no one has ever managed to climb it in the coldest season.” By comparison, the Rupal Face is about 1,000 meters higher than the North Face of Mount Everest and two and a half times higher than the Eiger North Face.

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Eight-thousander winter expeditions in the starting blocks

Jost Kobusch in front of his tent at Everest Base Camp
“The Base Camp. The whole Base Camp. Nothing but the Base Camp,” writes Jost Kobusch

Christmas in the snow – that’s definitely true for most climbers who have set their sights on projects on eight-thousanders this winter. Jost Kobusch arrived at Everest Base Camp on Monday. After his attempt the winter before last, the 29-year-old German is tackling for the second time his project to ascend solo and without bottled oxygen over the Lho La, a 6,000-meter-high pass between Nepal and Tibet, the West Ridge and the Hornbein Couloir located in the North Face towards Everest summit. In his first solo attempt on this route, Jost had reached an altitude of 7,366 meters in February 2020. This time he set himself the goal of reaching the 8,000-meter-mark.

For acclimatization he was on the way in the west of Nepal. There he succeeded with his German compatriot Nicolas Scheidtweiler the first ascent of the 6,465-meter-high Purbung on 30 November.

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Karakoram summer climbing under the sign of the pandemic

Biarchedi I (in the center of the picture, on the right Biarchedi II)

“The mountain is still unclimbed for a reason,” Ralf Dujmovits told me before setting off for Pakistan with his wife Nancy Hansen. “Even the approach to the base of Biarchedi I is difficult.” The German-Canadian mountaineering couple is attempting the still unclimbed 6,810-meter-high mountain in the Karakoram this summer.

In 2016, Ralf had caught sight of the Biarchedi group during Nancy’s and his failed attempt on the also still unclimbed 7,134-meter-high Praqpa Ri and learned afterwards that the highest mountain of the massif had not yet been climbed – unlike the 6781-meter Biarchedi II, which the legendary Polish climber Jercy Kukuczka (1948-1989) had first climbed solo in 1984. In the meantime, the two have moved into their base camp at 4,500 meters. During the first eight days in Pakistan “everything has gone incredibly smoothly and we have been warmly welcomed by everyone we met,” Ralf writes on Instagram.

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Read: To Live

25 January 2018, on the summit of Nanga Parbat, about 6.30 p.m. After the French Elisabeth Revol, the Pole Tomek Mackiewicz also reaches the summit. Revol is the first woman to succeed in a winter ascent of the 8,125-meter-high summit in Pakistan, Mackiewicz the first Pole. “‘Eli what’s happening with my eyes? Eli, I can’t see your head torch any more; you’re a blur!’,” Revol recalls. “This second lasts an eternity. Everything changes. I retch and shake; fear overwhelms me. My legs turn to jelly and I collapse.” Success turns into drama. In the end only the French climber is saved, Mackiewicz dies in an ice cave at 7,238 meters.

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Cala Cimenti’s corona advice: “Be strong and patient!”

Cala Cimenti

He’s back to his passion. In the northwest Italian region of Piedmont and in the Dolomites Carlalberto, called “Cala”, Cimenti, rides his mountain bike again, climbs mountains and flies downhill with his paraglider. In March, the 45-year-old – as reported – was tested positive for the coronavirus. The doctors diagnosed Cimenti with pneumonia, but sent him home from the hospital – with medication and the advice to call if things got worse. For days he lay in bed with a high fever, cared for by his wife Erika Siffredi. “My attention is fixed on the thermometer marks, on every breath that must not be worse than the previous one,” Cimenti wrote on Facebook at the time. He recovered.

First ascent of Gasherbrum VII

In summer 2019, Cala had scaled Nanga Parbat in Pakistan and had skied down from the eight-thousander. He then succeeded in the Karakoram in the first ascent of the 6,955-meter-high Gasherbrum VII – the ascent is on the candidate list for this year’s Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of climbers”. On the descent from Gasherbrum VII, his team mate Francesco Cassardo fell about 450 meters deep. In a dramatic rescue operation it was managed to get Francesco to safety. Cimenti had previously scaled the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu (in 2006), Manaslu (in 2011) and Dhaulagiri (in 2017). 

Cala, how are you currently doing, have you recovered from your corona infection one hundred percent?

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Summit successes on Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat

Wednesday was a successful summit day on the eight-thousander Nanga Parbat. Several groups that had formed a large group during their summit push reached the highest point at 8,125 meters. The data from their GPS trackers confirm the summit successes of the Spaniard Sergi Mingote and the mountaineer Stefi Troguet from Andorra.

Sergi Mingote

Sergi Mingote scaled Nanga Parbat without bottled oxygen – after Lhotse in spring it was his second eight-thousander this year he climbed without breathing mask. “Happy!!!”, Sergi let us know about his emotional state via Facebook. Last spring, the 48-year-old had originally wanted to climb Mount Everest after Lhotse, but after an in the end futile rescue operation for the Bulgarian Ivan Tomov (who died, apparently of an high-altitude cerebral edema) he decided not to do so. In 2018, Mingote had reached the summits of three eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen: K2, Broad Peak and Manaslu. This summer, after having scaled Nanga Parbat now, he has set his sights on Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II.

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