The tattered remains of an orange tent fluttering in the wind. A rope hangs on a 300m high stone wall. The sound of crows chirping over the snow and ice broke the silence. Only one backpack appeared, and it belonged to Jost Kobusch, a German who can currently be described as the loneliest Alpine climber in the world.
Kobusch is atop Everest, in the dead of winter, trying to climb the world’s tallest mountain in a season that hardly anyone dares to scale.
No one else was seen for miles, just Kobusch and a 29,031-foot challenge: being the first person to climb Everest alone in winter without supplemental oxygen.
In a WhatsApp phone call from Nepal, Kobusch described the surreal solitude of the landscape. “You have to picture this: There is only one tent in the base camp,” he said. It’s his, of course. He coughs into the phone; frigid air — which can plummet to minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit at the top of a mountain in winter — has affected his lungs, he said.
If successful, Kobusch, 29, will put his name in the history of climbing Everest successfully. Even if he admits it’s a big “if”, his efforts reflect a push to leave his mark on the world’s most famous mountain.
Since Edmund Hillary and mountaineer Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach the summit, in 1953 more than 6,000 people have been recognized as having reached the summit.
Nowadays, it has become fashionable to stick some of the first types on the mountain – The oldest NFL player to arrive reached the top, world’s tallest dinner party – rarely leaves truly remarkable feats on Everest.
Billi Bierling, CEO of Himalaya . Database.
Still, reaching the top of any of the world’s 14 8,000-meter-high (26,246 feet) peaks in the harsh cold and windstorms of winter remains an epic feat. K2, the second highest mountain in the world, no one has reached the summit in winter, until it finally succumbed last year to a Nepali team, led by Nirmal Purja, who is known as Nims, and Mingma G.
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K2 can be colder than Everest in winter, but Purja said in an email from Antarctica, where he is leading an expedition, “In terms of winter, if you remove all the manpower and if you just going there with a small group, Everest will be much harder and more dangerous because it’s almost 9,000 meters.”
Krzysztof Wielicki, 72, summited Everest in its first winter on February 17, 1980, with a Polish climber, Leszek Cichy, after a group of 16 climbers toiled on the mountain during two months.
“You have to be able to endure. It is the art of suffering,” he said in a phone call from his home in southern Poland.
Including Wielicki and Cichy, only 15 people have stood atop Everest during the meteorological winter (which begins December 1), when winds can reach 200 miles per hour. All climb with partners and only one, Ang Rita Sherpa, in 1987, climbing without supplemental oxygen.
Kobusch, with a penchant for long, lonely and daring climbs, is trying to climb even higher.
Not only is he climbing in the winter and alone without supplemental oxygen, he’s also trying to reach the summit of Everest via the West Ridge, a far more formidable route than the two most popular, which almost 98% of those looking for the top of the mountain use. Kobusch was faced with sheer walls, a bullet-proof blue iceberg as steep as the spire of a church, and a final gulf of ice, rock and snow – known as the Hornbein Couloir – where only a few have ever set foot arrive.
“Taking a route that’s never been done before in the winter is another way to do something for the first time,” says Bierling. “What Jost is doing, it’s technically challenging, and he’s completely doing it on his own. If he does that, he will stand on the same peak that everyone is standing on. But the way he got there – you really can’t compare, it’s so different”.
Climbing Everest alone is not a departure for Kobusch, but a continuation of his signature style. In 2016, after he climbed Annapurna I (26,545 feet) alone, he decided to seek an experience that went even further and further.
“Others also climbed the same day,” he said of Annapurna. “I was looking for the real wilderness.”
In 2017, he found it. Kobusch climbing Nangpai Gosum I (24,019 feet), then the fourth highest peak in the world, alone. “Next, I went searching for that raw space in the 8,000-meter-high mountain peaks, for the hardest and biggest project I could imagine,” he said. “And it’s pretty obvious. That’s Everest. ”
This is the second time he has attempted to climb the Western Peak of Everest alone in winter, after a Initial effort in the 2019-20 season. In that attempt, he reached a height of 24,167 feet before turning around. In either case, his solitary experience was as far away as can be imagined from the mainstream Everest most people know.
In spring, Everest Base Camp becomes a bustling village, stretching 1.2 km along the Khumbu Glacier. In 2021, its population exceeds 1,000. The mountain itself is the same. In 2019, the last climbing season unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic, more than 1,240 people were on base camp, according to the Himalayan Database.
Bierling, who climbed Everest in 2009. Climbers on commercial expeditions say it’s “basically a highway” of climbers overcoming obstacles, lined up Cross the long aluminum ramps installed by the Sherpa teams at Khumbu Icefall and climb fixed ropes all the way up the mountain. Sherpa guides set up tents for their clients in the higher camps, and sometimes even put sleeping bags inside for them. And almost every climber uses supplemental oxygen, even while sleeping.
Kobusch doesn’t have that. He’s installed short pieces of rope, about 560 feet in total, over some of the steepest rock and ice steps, but beyond that, he’s free-climbing alone. By contrast, by spring, more than two miles of wire had been installed in Khumbu Icefall alone, a dangerous mess of ice blocks the size of the house and apartment in front of Camp 1.
Kobusch chose to climb the West Ridge in part because he thought it too dangerous to go alone through the Khumbu Icefall, where the route avoided. But he also chose it for the sake of aesthetics.
“For a true climber, West Ridge is a nicer trail,” says Kobusch. “It’s much harder, but it’s straighter. The South Col route that most people take goes around the back of the mountain. The path that I am taking is a truly direct path. ”
Kobusch’s highest point so far this year is 21,184 feet, which he reached on January 4. (A. live GPS tracking on his website showing his progress.) If he gets up to 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), he will reach Hornbein Couloir, which could prove the most difficult part of the climb. Couloir is a 1,600-foot-long steep, narrow blade of snow that bisects the northern rock face of the mountain.
Americans Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld first climbed the Hornbein Couloir in May 1963. In the nearly 59 years since, only five other expeditions have climbed it.
“Looking back, obviously we were committed and determined, but we also got lucky,” said Hornbein, 91, from his home, Hornbein, 91, from his home in Estes Park, Colo. I live in Estes Park, Colo. cautiously. But it’s still extremely risky. There is no money-back guarantee”.
Wielicki agrees. “I think his chances are 50-50, if he’s lucky. If he has a good weather window, it can. But you need luck – and luck is hard in the winter.”
Kobusch admits that his chances of success are slim, and that a third expedition next winter may be necessary.
“If I can go higher, I want to, but I am happy to reach 8,000 meters,” he said. “Nobody has even looked at couloir in winter. Probably won’t be able to climb. It is a journey into the unknown. “
Kobusch insists he doesn’t think about the historical nature of his work, or what it means to join the ranks of forerunners like Hornbein, Wielicki and Purja.
“I was just there to do my job,” Kobusch said. “But when I’m in the mountains, my mind doesn’t have to go around much. There is only a deep flow and deep concentration. “
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/01/sports/the-loneliest-mountaineer-on-everest.html The loneliest climber on Everest