Home > Expeditions & Adventures > Gerfried Göschl’s Nanga Parbat new line debrief: “our emotions are still very mixed”

Gerfried Göschl’s Nanga Parbat new line debrief: “our emotions are still very mixed”

Success arrived after years of tenacious planning and the pictures say it all: a frightening couloir, a vertical ice wall – the small group of friends survived and triumphed a partial new line on Nanga Parbat in a season when even summits on the normal routes were scarce.

Yet the flaming sword of victory was double-edged. “Our accomplishment is almost completely wiped out by Wolfgang’s death,” Gerfried told ExplorersWeb in the following interview made shortly after his K2 attempt.

ExplorersWeb: Was this a full new line or a variation? (Details if possible pls about topo, times, style, gear etc).

Gerfried: Our objective was to find a complete new route to climb Nanga Parbat summit, not a variation. During a year and a half we checked all the pictures, books and maps, sending tons of emails with ideas. Finally in spring 2008, I found it! A new possibility to reach an untouched part of NP North West wall. Looking in one of Messner’s books “Alleingang am Nanga Parbat” I stopped on this incredible picture of NP where the complete Diamir flank can be seen from the sky.

That’s when the solution, the key to the puzzle that I was searching for just appeared to me. It was a hidden couloir between the Czech route on the right side and the (unsuccessfully attempted) Diamir glacier route on the left side. It was a secret way to join the untouched North West buttress.

The rest was just logical: Follow the ridge and overcome the two giant pinnacles that cross to the right above big seracs to reach a second ridge leading to the Basin at 7400 meters. More than 2000m of complete new ground.

We first acclimatized on the Kinshofer route till 6000 meters with our friends and then climbed the new route in alpine style. We brought little technical gear; 3 Black Diamond ice screws, 2 pitons, 50m of 7mm static rope from New England, 4 Camp ultra light ice axes, 2 Black Diamond technical ice axes. And although we had only ultra light sleeping bags from Northland Professional we had real warm nights 🙂

ExplorersWeb: Any hairy situations? How was the weather?

Gerfried: All worked well. The couloir (800m, 50°) at the start of the route was really steep; with a 200 meter ice wall at the end (60°, here we had some belay) and we climbed nearly all of it without rope. The weather was good, but really windy on the upper slopes. Charly Gabl and Muhammad Hanif provided us with very, very good weather forecasts, also a key to success! Thanks to both.

ExplorersWeb: Who were the summiteers?

Gerfried: Louis Rousseau, Sepp Bachmair, Hans Goger and myself. Sadly Günther Unterberger, definitely one of the strongest among us on the new route, suffered problems with altitude and had to return to camp 4 on summit push.

ExplorersWeb: How did the route compare to your studies of it from the pictures?

Gerfried: We did it nearly like we had planned it and the difficulties were exactly the same as we thought they would be. The name of the new route is the Nanga Parbat Austro-Canadian North-West buttress.

ExplorersWeb: Which part was the hardest and why?

Gerfried: The summit day was the hardest. Louis and I rushed to the top of Nanga Parbat hoping to find our friend Wolfgang. We thought he had made a bivouac on his descent; we had had no news from him since 7 pm July 10.

Unfortunately we discovered that he fell to his death below the summit. We found his backpack and ice axe at 8064m and after following a sliding track in the snow we found his hat at 8016m. He must have fallen more than 2000m, and the helicopter couldn’t find any sign of him either.

ExplorersWeb: How was the summit push and descent?

Gerfried: Louis and I summited in 8 hours from camp 4. We rushed to the summit to find Wolfgang, discovered his pack very near the summit, and after realizing the hopeless situation we proceeded the few meters to the top.

Louis took with him Wolfgang’s pack on descent. We crossed path with Sepp, Hans and Herbert; at around 7800 meters I sat down, shed some tears and called my wife in Austria to begin the procedure with Wolfgang.

ExplorersWeb: The line took years of planning – how did it feel to finally succeed?

Gerfried: We will write down a good route description when we come home; seeing the picture on a big screen again will probably feel a little nostalgic. With the death of Wolfgang and Miss Go it is still very hard to separate what we accomplished from the terrible summit day though. Emotions are still very mixed.

ExplorersWeb: How badly was the triumph affected by the loss of your client?

Gerfried: First of all, Wolfgang was not a client, he was a very close friend, a friend of my family. We planned our first Pakistan expedition together already 6 years ago on Gasherbrum 2. Since then we have organized large scale expedition on 8000m peaks under the Austrian Alpine Club and always tried to climb together. He was like a co-leader to us. Our accomplishment is almost completely wiped out by Wolfgang death.

But we feel better by each day, especially when people ask us to look at our new route pictures. It’s good to talk it over with other climbers; finally they make us realize how lucky we are. Coming to K2 BC and meeting with other climbers and real friends was very therapeutic for us.

ExplorersWeb: Following all the drama on Nanga Parbat – how did you guys feel about K2 and what’s next?

Gerfried: With the loss of Wolfgang and Miss Go some members who were supposed to join us on K2 decided to go home. We completely respect and agree with their decision. Sepp, Louis and I wanted to continue our expedition to overcome our sadness; to leave Nanga behind for new and positive climbing experiences.

We didn’t want to leave like that; to wait in airports and fly home with the bad feelings of Nanga’s sad summit day was too difficult. We are all together in K2 BC now. We made it to 8300 meters; the snow conditions didn’t allow us to summit although we really gave our best. There’s nothing you can do if nature doesn’t allow it, such are the rules of mountaineering!

Yesterday we invited all our friends to a party in our mess tent. We tried to finish this expedition with a positive feeling, and it worked out really well 🙂 As for next “new route projects”, we had plenty of time in BC to think about them. But families first!

(Ed note: Gerfried was married to his Heike on top of an Austrian peak in May. A church ceremony is scheduled for September 5.)

Korean Mi Sun Go and Austrian Wolfgang Kölblinger topped out Nanga Parbat on Friday July 10, at 6:00 pm. According to the Korean team, Wolfgang fell to his death shortly after on descent. Another fall, on an unroped section between C3 and C2 took Miss Go’s life on the following day, Saturday July 11, when Gerfried Göschl, Louis Rousseau, Sepp Bachmair and Hans Goger summited Nanga Parbat via a partial, new line.

Veteran Portuguese mountaineer Joao Garcia who summited Nanga Parbat 6 hours before Miss Go and Wolfgang was critical of the logistics on the peak, especially the removal of the line (which he reportedly had fixed) where Miss Go fell. Removal of rope on the section almost cost the life of Denis Urubko in 2003, RussianClimb reported. In reply, Gerfried said that two high altitude porters from Mr. Kim’s Korean team had removed the ropes on Friday, in a joint decision made by all teams to cut ropes from safer places and fix them in more dangerous parts.

Gerfried Göschl (35) lives in Liezen, Austria. His first 8000er summits were Cho Oyu (2002) and GII (2003). In 2005 he summited Shisha Pangma’s main summit and Everest without O2 within a month. In 2007 he attempted a Broad Peak/K2 double header – he summited Broad, but failed to reach K2’s top due to deep snow and high risk of avalanche.

This summer Gerfried was off on a new double-header: Nanga Parbat and K2, hoping to climb new routes on both mountains. Gerfried led a large group of mates from past expeditions on both the new and normal routes.

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