Nuptse Eastridge Expedition 2012 – Summit via North Pillar!
A lot has happened in the past few days and we have had an amazing and exciting time. On 17th May at around 1pm, David Göttler and I reached the the top of Nuptse – a long-lasting dream has come true.
But I would like to tell you everything slowly from the beginning. We had been waiting for good weather to start our second summit attempt for a while and were eager to leave base camp. Finally, the day came. On 14th May, David and I went to Camp II and the following day we continued to the bottom of the pillar. We were intending to reach the summit on 16th May, however, after having talked to Ralf he advised us to wait until the 17th May as this day looked less windy and more stable. When on 16th May the first sunrays hit our tent at the bottom of the pillar, we packed our bags and started climbing up the North Pillar. We had changed our minds and decided to do a bivouac at about 7,250m.
The lower part of the pillar is pretty exposed and covered in blue ice. During our climb, which demanded high concentration, we were roped together. We fixed an ice screw every 20m or so and we were moving safely and steadily. When we reached the upper end of the pillar (we had done about one third of the climb) we decided to look for a bivouac place after having overcome the last steep 20 metres. It had also started to snow. David and I agreed without talking much. We dug, hacked and worked hard until our small tent was pitched on a tiny platform. It was standing there all alone, like an Eagle’s Nest.
After the long, steep and demanding ascent we felt very tired. The heavy packs, the continuous belaying, the concentration – we felt every bit of our climb. But still, everything went smoothly. One of us collected ice while the other one organised the tent. We paid great attention that each of us was drinking enough and tried to rest for the next day.
There are not many people with who everything runs like clockwork, but it does with David. Without saying much, we know what we have to do and what to prioritise. In the evening, Ralf confirmed the weather report, which was very important to us. The route would be dangerous in snowfall. At 2am, David’s alarm clock went off and I was lucky – it was his turn to melt snow, which meant I could stay in my sleeping bag for another half an hour. The inside of the tent had turned into an ice cave and we had to be careful not to touch it as little ice crystals came falling down. Even though we know this situation it is sometimes difficult to stay calm about it. Just before the sun hit the tent at 6.15am, we started in very cold temperatures. Roped together we were looking for the best line through rocks, sow and ice. Breaking trail had slowed us down a bit and we were taking turns – and then, my mantra came into my mind again. “I have strength, energy, success, I am healthy and grateful.” It stayed in my mind all the way to the top.
Looking down was absolutely breathtaking. From our bivouac we were able to see base camp, the whole of the Western Cwm, Camp II, Camp III on the Lhotse Face and we could even look as far as the Tibetan Plateau!!!
The two significant ice towers were edging closer and David was wondering whether it was really the summit up there. Twenty metres below the summit we turns in breaking trail again. When I heard a loud cry of joy, I knew that this must be the summit. I quickly climbed up and already during the last metres before the summit I could sense a myriad of feelings– happiness, thankfulness and joy were running though my body. Sixteen years after Ralf and Axel Schlönvogt had reached the summit via the „Scott Route“, David and I were blessed to be up here and enjoy the amazing views on a windless and perfect day. The main summit of Nuptse has only seen 17 ascents while hundreds of people get in line to reach the top of Everest. From up here the view was beautiful and completely different than from Everest and Lhotse, even though those three mountains are very close together.
However, now we had to get back down safely, which demands the highest concentration. We were not allowed to make the tiniest mistake on our descent. We have been in such a situation many times and we knew these moments so well, which is actually more dangerous routine can make careless. Something we definitely wanted to prevent. As we were very tired and cold when we arrived at our bivouac, we decided to stay there another night and descend the last third of the pillar the following morning. When we woke up in the morning we were longing for the warming sun as the night was bitter cold, however, two hours later the heat was already excruciating. There is no other place in the world where you get such contrasts – no matter in what matter.
We climbed and abseiled down until we got to the bottom of the pillar and we were happy to reach Camp II for lunch. Ralf had already been waiting there and I was secretly hoping that he would still be there. He had just come back form the South Col (7,950m) and his plan was to attempt Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen. He had carried all his equipment to the South Col the previous day, however, that morning he felt that his body was weakened and that he was not healthy enough to attempt this difficult task. While we were climbing Nuptse I was actually worried that he had not cured his sinusitis properly but I was hoping, and also convinced, that he would make the right decision, as usual.
Now we are together again and Ralf has promised me that he would not attempt an oxygen-less ascent of Everest again. In order to climb to such an altitude without Sherpas and supplementary oxygen as well as come down safe and sound, everything has to be 100 percent perfect.
Yesterday evening, David, Ralf and I were sitting at base camp feeling tired but also happy about the indescribably beautiful days we had just experienced. Over a plate of potatoes we were telling each other stories and felt very happy. Life is beautiful!!!
At this point I would like to thank you for your interest and for keeping your fingers crossed!
A big thanks to my sponsor partner, who are still supporting me even though I have finished all 14 8,000ers and will continue to work with me!!!
THANK YOU Stefan Dech and his team of the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
Many thanks to Kathrin and Nicola, who are running the show at home and who are helping us tremendously – not only when we are on expedition.
Thank you to my friend Billi Bierling for the English translation.
And last but not least thanks to Sitaram, our amazing chef who has been with us for years and looks after us so well.
On that note, I would like to wish you all a great summer, stay healthy and live your dreams as much as you can.
Warm Regards from Base Camp
PS: You will find an interesting account of Ralf’s attempt to climb Mount Everest on www.ralf-dujmovits.de
4th Newsletter – Nuptse East Ridge Expedition – 1st May 2012
It was not easy for me to peel myself out of the reasonably warm sleeping bag to face the icy temperatures on the morning of the 4th of May. My bladder was full and I had to start the stove to melt some drinking water. David and I were planning to get to the start of the Nuptse Pillar that morning. Our downsuits were still protecting us from the cold, however, they would soon become a nuisance.
Firstly, we were ascending the relatively flat corridor towards the Lhotse Face before we turned right towards the Nuptse North Face. We were climbing across a horizontal terrace underneath huge hanging ice blocs and tried to make as much progress as possible, which was hard work with our heavy rucksacks in the sweltering heat. On our way to the pillar, we ascended to a steeper and heavily-crevassed snow couloirs before we found a protected spot at 6,900m, where we hacked out a platform for our small tent. This was the perfect exit point for the start of our climb the following night.
As so often, the evening was beautiful and it certainly reached its highlight when the moon rose over the eastside ofLhotse. We were confident about our climb the next day and were tucked up in our sleeping bag by 7pm. I quickly fell asleep with my back pressed against the rock wall and I was telling myself to sleep deeply and quickly! At midnight the stove was already hissing again to make breakfast. I was neither hungry nor thirsty, which is usual at this time of day, however, we needed energy for our ascent of Nuptse. However, when we stuck our heads out of our tent we were slightly disappointed – it was snowing quietly but heavily. It did not take very long for the first spindrifts to rush down the Nuptse Wall and we decided very quickly not go up, but down. Had we waited any longer, we would have been trapped up there. At first we were able to recognise our footsteps from the previous day but it did not take very long and we had to use our GPS to findCampIIin this whiteout. Some Sherpas, who were intending to climb up the Lhotse Face, were happy to see us to follow our footsteps. They had got lost in the whiteout.
David and I stored all our gear atCampIIand descended through the icefall as quickly as possible to base camp, where we arrived just in time for breakfast with Ralf at 8am. Even though he is feeling better he has decided not attempt Nuptse with us but try and get to the South Col of Everest at almost 8,000m to acclimatise for his oxygen-less attempt.
Everything seems a bit upside down this year but we will see what the weather will do in the next few days.
For now, I am sending you warm regards and hope that you are enjoying many sunny days wherever you are.
3rd Newsletter – Nuptse East Ridge Expedition – 1st May 2012
It has already been three days since we got back from our second acclimatisation rotation. We spent many hours within the amazing beauty of the Western Cwm and the Lhotse Face, where the three of us spent a lonely night in a tiny tent at 7,100m. Despite the surrounding beauty, we were also a little bit concerned about our safety up there: after a very dry winter in the Everest region, the flanks of Nuptse,Lhotseand Everest are completely and utterly dry. Blue ice and constant rockfall were with us all the time and the massive Khumbu Icefall, which sits just above base camp, is in pretty precarious condition this year. In some places, especially at the upper end of the 700m-high icefall, huge seracs are teetering above the route threatening to fall down at any minute.
We were actually very pleased with our decision to first acclimatise on Lobuje East as this means that we have to do one less acclimatisation trip through the icefall in order to get to the bottom of Nuptse. On 22nd April – the auspicious day in the Sherpa calendar – the traditional Puja took place. Our kitchen staff and a monk, who works as a climbing Sherpa for another expedition, did a great job at organising it. After this, we were finally ready to climb the mountain.
As the winds were still pretty strong higher up, we decided to wait another day for our first trip out of base camp. On 24th April at 5am, we finally left for our first trip through the icefall. The bottom of the icefall felt pretty moderate with only a few crevasses, however, once we got farther up we noticed that this year’s risk potential was pretty high. Everyone felt a little bit tense and we all triedt to get through the icefall, which has been fixed by the Icefall Doctors, as quickly as possible.
David, Ralf and I were very happy to reach the safe site of Camp I at 6,100m. After a short break we continued to climb through the Western Cwm, which is surrounded by Nuptse’s North Face,Lhotse’s West Ridge and the massive South Face of Everest. AtCampIIat 6,400m, most of the big commercial Everest expeditions had already set up their camps. We pitched our two small bivouac tents at the upper end of the camp. The following day was pretty relaxed and we spent it with drinking, having a late breakfast and chatting to old friends. The Argentinean climber Damian Benegas was camped next to us – a few years ago, he and his brother Willie had opened a beautiful and very steep line on Nuptse.
On 26th April, we climbed through the North flank of Nuptse to get to the Bergschrund on the bottom of our intended route to reach theEast Ridge. A brief look at it confirmed our worries: the route was very dry and prone to rockfall. When we saw the huge rocks at the bottom of the face, we very quickly agreed that this route would be out of question: too dangerous.
We had seen what was important to us and returned toCampII, where we spent the afternoon in beautiful weather.
Even though the next day started off very windy, we followed our plan to climb up toCampIII. On the way to the Bergschrund, which leads to the Lhotse Face, Ralf noticed that just like in the last few days, he was going too slowly. He wanted to go faster but was unable to find the necessary energy to do so and arrived at the bivouac site (7,100m) a lot later than we did. David and I had spent two hours to dig out a platform underneath an ice wall, which would give us some protection from the rockfall, and were boiling water for us and Ralf to drink. We were the only people sleeping atCampIIIthat night and even though it was good for our acclimatisation, it was also pretty exhausting.
The 28th April also started off very windy and the sun hit our tents pretty late. However, as we had all day we were not in a hurry and only packed our bags for the descent in the late afternoon. We were happy as we had reached our first big target to spend one night above 7,000m and only started our descent as late as 2.40pm. We arrived at base camp just in time for dinner and Sitaram had prepared a delicious meal for our tired bodies – the perfect ending to a perfect but long day.
The following day started off pretty leisurely and just after we had had breakfast, Ralf decided that he would go and see the Spanish doctor Monica (expedition doctor for Russell Brice). His lack of energy and motivation really bothered him and he wanted to find out why. Monica diagnosed him with a bacterial sinusitis and told him to rest for at least seven days and gave him antibiotics.
As Ralf has to spend the next week looking after his sinusitis, he told David and I to take the next opportunity to climb Nuptse. He said that he would currently be a danger to himself and to us. Of course, I would have loved to climb Nuptse with Ralf but as always health is more important than anything else. David and I are now intending to climb the beautiful North Pillar via theScott Route, which is not prone to rockfall.
I will be in touch again as soon as we get back. Up until then I am sending you warm regards, and please remember to keep your fingers crossed J.
TRANSLATION by Billi Bierling
(Deutsch) Coverstory im National Geographic Magazin