How can I climb a mountain
The 10 last alpine challenges
Eight-thousanders, steep walls, free solo achievements of the century: In alpinism, the air is slowly getting thin for great pioneering achievements. The following 10 adventures are still up for grabs. Or were, one would have to say by now - because the mountaineering scene never sleeps.
Text: Simon Schreyer
Alpinism developed with the great challenges of its different epochs: climbing in the sixth degree, the great north faces of the Alps, the eight-thousanders, the highest steep walls, the free and finally the free-solo climbs of the most difficult routes.
But slowly the air is getting thin. On which mountains, routes and pillars can the impossible be realized and new territory entered? What major alpine challenges do today's mountaineers have left? We have put together ten for you.
1. Masherbrum, Northeast Face, Pakistan
"The northeast face of Masherbrum is like an Eiger north face with a Cerro Torre on top," said David Lama. He had to know, he had undertaken two expeditions to inspect the 3,500 m high wall.
In 1960 the 7,821 meter high mountain in the Karakoram, which resembles a hint from God, was first climbed by an American rope team on the southeast side. Since then, 15 different teams have already reached the summit across all sides. Just not over the northeast face, which remains one of the last big question marks in alpinism.
2. Annapurna III, SE pillar, Nepal
If you look past the triangle of Machapuchare on the right from Pokhara in Nepal, you will see it: the monstrous pillar that rises above 7,500 meters and is exposed in the direction of sunrise.
In the early 1980s, a British troop failed on this 2,800-meter-high monolith, which puts mountaineers to the test as they approach and whose puff-pastry-like rock is eaten away by the monsoon. The strong three-person team Lama-Auer-Blümel also had to admit defeat in 2016.
3. Dhaulagiri, south face / Direttissima, Nepal
The Dhaulagiri ("White Mountain") is a freestanding 8,000 meter in central Nepal. Its 4,000 meter high south face shines far into the Indian lowlands.
A four-person team under the direction of Reinhold Messner made an attempt in 1977, but retreated at a little more than 6,000 meters due to the risk of stones and ice falling. The Slovenian soloist Tomaz Humar managed the first ascent, but after almost a week on the wall at the height of 7,200 meters he had to swerve to the right because he did not trust an overhanging, 400 meter high cross rib made of rotten rock. The direttissima from the foot of the wall to the 8,167 meter high summit is still pending.
4. Mount Everest, Kangshung Face / Direttissima, Tibet (China)
Everest, the most frequently climbed 8,000 meter, still awaits the direct ascent of its east face up to the highest point on earth. Too exposed, if the risk of avalanches is too high, say the experts.
A British and an American expedition made routes through parts of the three-kilometer-wide and 3,400-meter-high wall, but only as far as the southeast ridge route. If you get into an emergency here, a rescue attempt is hopeless. Everest pioneer George Mallory noted in 1922: “Other men, less wise, may try this path if they wish. But, emphatically, this is nothing for us. "
5. Muchu Chhish, Pakistan
At 7,452 meters, Muchu Chhish is the second highest unclimbed peak in the world (after the sacred and therefore forbidden Gangkhar Pünsum in Bhutan).
Difficult to access and surrounded by numerous cracks, the mountain in Batura Muztagh in the Karakoram has successfully resisted its ascent. The last, second, serious attempt to date was three years ago: Pete Thompson from England came up to 6,000 meters in 2016, but ultimately had to turn back because an unexpected passage of bare ice took more time than expected.
6. Gasherbrum IV, west face to summit, Pakistan
The G4 scratches the 8,000 meter mark and was first climbed in 1958 by Walter Bonatti and Carlo Mauri. In 1985, Wojciech Kurtyka from Poland and Robert Schauer from Graz climbed its west face in six days using the most elegant line and in an exemplary alpine style. Even today, this hard-fought success is considered one of the most daring deeds in modern mountaineering.
However, due to exhaustion, the two did not get to the highest point, but descended after reaching the northern summit over the northwest ridge. In 1997 a large Korean team climbed the west pillar to the summit, but the Kurtyka / Schauer route to the summit has not yet been repeated.
7. Karjiang, Tibet (China)
The 7,221 meter high Karjiang in Chinese-occupied Tibet has several peaks that have already been climbed. However, nobody has ever set foot on the snow of its southern summit, which is also its highest point.
A Japanese team led by Nobuhiro Shingo attempted the first ascent of the mountain in October 1986, but had to turn back due to its difficulty and contented itself with the central summit (7,216 m). A Dutch expedition in 2001 also failed because of the steepness of the main summit, which is often overrun by extreme updrafts.
8. Link Sar, Pakistan
“I'm a Berliner!” This mountain could claim, which was scouted out by a German expedition in 1964 and called “Berlin Peak”. However, the name Link Sar has prevailed.
Its ascent has been attempted four times by British photographer and mountaineer Jon Griffith and various partners. Ultimately, he and Andy Houseman reached the Link Sar West (6,938 m) in 2016. The pointed main peak still floated untouched and barely visible from the valley floor above the beautiful Charakusa Valley.
Until late summer 2019, when the 7,000-meter peak was first climbed over the southeast face by the Americans Steve Swenson, Mark Richey, Chris Wright and Graham Zimmerman. Here is the detailed expedition report.
9. K2 in winter, Pakistan
Almost all of the 14 8,000m peaks were climbed during the coldest time of the year. Except for the K2 (8,611 m).
Simone Moro is a specialist in winter ascent of the highest peaks on earth. The tough Italian from Bergamo managed four in the most inhospitable season, followed by Maciej Berbeka from Poland with three. For the sake of his wife, Moro refrains from attempting to climb the "mountain of mountains" in winter because she had dreamed several times that he would perish while attempting.
The dangers are evident: huge amounts of snowdrift accumulate on the huge flanks, not to mention gruesome high-altitude storms. Sometimes it may be better not to make dreams come true, but to interpret them as a warning.
On January 16, 2021, a ten-person Sherpa team achieved what the great Simone Moro had never dared: The Nepalese mountaineers climbed the last of the 14 eight-thousanders on earth in winter and thus made alpine history!
10. Devil’s Thumb, Northwest Face, Alaska
In the middle of nowhere between Alaska and British Columbia is the Devil’s Thumb. Even his first ascent by Fred "Dirtbag" Beckey over the technically relatively simple eastern edge was a border crossing between life and death. The northwest face, which rises 2,000 meters from the so-called Witches Cauldron, climbs three climate zones and is 67 ° steep on average, is considered impossible even among the toughest mountaineers.
Fifteen teams have so far been lucky enough to find conditions that even allowed entry into the wall. Three alpinists have already died in it. So the chances are good that this wall will remain unconquerable forever.
Annotation: This article did not take into account sacred mountains such as the Kailash in western Tibet or the Gangkhar Pünsum in Bhutan, which are forbidden to climb, or those whose highest peak was not climbed out of religious respect. This was the case, for example, with the Machapuchare in Nepal and with the Nanda Devi in India.
About the author: Simon Schreyer was a reporter for Red Bulletin magazine for several years. When he's not working to overcome his fear of heights, he writes about pop culture, literature, and distant places. He was particularly taken with the mountains and cultures of the Himalayas, which his great-great-uncle Peter Aufschnaiter explored.
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