All we want is to explore.
Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don’t.
The journey is always the reward.
“It’s winter time. I’m thinking that right now nobody on this planet is at an altitude above sea level higher than me.
I’m at 7200 meters, on the Mazeno Ridge. It’s a strange feeling. I never felt so far away in my entire life.
I feel small. I feel alone.” – David Göttler
70 DAYS EARLIER
Heading to Basecamp
After only three and a half days we were at the Nanga Parbat base camp.
Once we arrived in Islamabad, we retrieved our cargo and set off for Chilas the next day. Driving along the Karakoram Highway is already a journey, an adventure in itself.
After two days traveling in a jeep, with armed military guards escorting us for several stretches, we reached the Rupal Valley. The locals gave us a warm welcome, which was great: we were the first foreigners to visit since last year’s Diamir terrorist attack which took the lives of, eleven alpinists (may their souls rest in peace).
The path to the base camp runs along the east side of the Rupal Face, known as the highest mountain face in the world.
It doesn’t really make much sense to say that the face is 4,500 m (about 15,000 ft) “high,” because this order of magnitude applies more appropriately to distances.
It is a measure of extension, not of ascent. But Nanga is a whole different story. Here I’ve felt as I never have before at the foot of a mountain.
FROM MILAN TO BASE CAMP IN NUMBERS
Days of Travel
Hours of Flight
Km from Islamabad to Basecamp
Altitude (mt) at Basecamp
“The feeling is that Nanga is not just a mountain, and Rupal is not just a face.
This is a whole world on its own to be discovered and explored: a planet apart from the Himalayas.”
Nanga Parbat has been attempted for 25 years in winter, and nobody has reached the summit so far.
Summits of 8000mt. on Earth
Winter attempts on Nanga Parbat since 1985
Life & People in Basecamp
“Staying at base camp for several days in a row requires patience and emotional balance. It’s hard to stay motivated and focused on our goal, but bad weather days, wind, getting ready for the ascent, are part of this game. Waiting is the only reasonable thing to do in such circumstances. So we waited. Having fun, I would say.”
THE ISLAND IS NOT EMPTY
“We are not alone here. We are surrounded by friends. The Shepherds who spread out trying to find a bit of grass for their flocks, they cut wood to heat their small huts, just behind our tents and they come and play card games with Didar, Amin and Aquil, our Pakistani staff and we chat with them.
On the mountain where also our friends from Poland.
We shared the island and the mountain. And not only sharing, we work together and sometimes we climbed together. Which is a good feeling of not being alone, here.”
None of us had ever flown a drone.
I mean, Simone flew helicopters, I drive motorbikes, David drives cars pretty fast, but drones are different. The first challenge was to switch on the drone and take off, we spent the firsts two days just to accomplish this challenges. Then, once in the air, the challenge was landing.
IT’S A LONG LONG WAY UP
Nanga Parbat, Schell Route, Rupal Side
During the first phase of the expedition it is important to prepare the ascent. Setting up the high camps by putting the tents up, supplying them with gas and everything necessary to camp and then it’s important to acclimatize.
The body needs to adapt to the high altitude, reacting to the stimulus of a lack of oxygen by producing more red blood cells.
PLANNING THE ASCENT
The first summit attempt turned into hard maintenance work on the first stretch of the route because the snow and wind of the previous days had nearly buried the fixed ropes. Simone and David worked very hard to pull them out.
Having the fixed ropes perfectly accessible and effective on that stretch of the route between C1 and C2 and on the ridge over C2 is crucial.
It reduces the risks during the descent, when you’re tired and carrying a big load on your back and the snow might have turned to hard ice. The risk is already very high up there. There are so many challenges to face from C2 on, with the crossing of the Diamir Face up to the peak of Nanga Parbat, and then the journey back. That’s why it is essential to ensure optimal conditions for at least the last stretch of the descent, when you’re most tired.
THE THREE CHALLENGES
Winter climbs are not about cold. Not only. Not about wind or ice or the icy condition of the line. Winter climbs are about the combination of this elements. Cold and wind and snowfalls and avalanches and black ice and shorter days. All this things, mixed together.
WIND CHILLIs the perceived decrease in air temperature felt by the body on exposed skin due to the flow of air. The higher the speed of the wind is, the lower is the temperature perceived by the body
BLUE ICEWhen snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of a glacier that winds its way toward a body of water. During its travels, air bubbles that are trapped in the ice are squeezed out, and the size of the ice crystals increases, making it clear. The surface become hard and even the crampons are not able to scratch it making the climb hard and dangerous
THE LINERupal Face is the highest mountain face of the world. From our base camp to the summit we had a difference in altitude of 4526 mt.
THE CLIMBING KIT
THE FINAL ATTEMPT
“Actually, the return is the only thing you really have to worry about when climbing a mountain. When you’re on the summit, you’re not even halfway through your journey. This is true for any mountain, and even more so for Nanga Parbat, especially in winter. This window of good weather was too short. That’s it.” DAVID GÖTTLER
We knew that this was the last option to try the summit, so even if the forecast was wind up to 60 km/h we went up to give a try.
The day we left BC was dumping. Tomek was already in C3. Other two polish climbers, Pawel and Jacek were ready in the ice cave at 6000m.
Things went differently. Unfortunately that day the wind was too strong to climb over the ridge at 6000m and Simone and David had to split. Simone bivaccoued in the ice cave at C2 with the two polish guys and David went up to the intermediate camp at 6300.
The day after the plan for Simone was to move directly to C4 joining David, but he felt sick. He spent the night vomiting, so he decided to quit and give to David the chance to try the summit with Tomek.
The day after they went up till the Mazeno Ridge, at about 7200m.
THE EXPEDITION TEAM
“This is not just a mountain. This is a whole world on its own to be discovered and explored. Our dream was to climb Nanga Parbat till the summit in winter, and come back. Safely. We tried. We did our best. This time, we didn’t succeed.”
Alpinist – Italy
Exploration never ends. It’s all about us. It’s about the team.
It’s about how we decide to climb, about when we decide to go.
That’s why I like to climb mountains in winter: just because it’s complicate.
So complicate that no one did. I do.”
Alpinist – Germany
Alpinist – Italy
At least for me.”