Nepal | October 28, 2020

Hans Kammerlander returns to Mt Manaslu recounting 1991 tragedy

Rajan Pokhrel
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Mountaineers Hans Kammerlander (2nd from left) and Stephan (2nd from right). Photo: THT Online

KATHMANDU: Legendary mountaineer Hans Kammerlander (60) who lost his two friends while descending Mt Manaslu in 1991 has returned to the world’s eighth highest peak to shoot a film on his own life, his greatest accomplishments, and tragedies.

The team comprising leader Stephan Keck and Gunther Goberi will stay in Manaslu region for a couple of weeks filming their climbing activities, Kammerlander said while talking to THT in Kathmandu.

Team leader Stephan said that the film ‘Manaslu – Mountain of The Spirit’ would try to reflect the image of a man who has dedicated his life to the mountains, suffered great losses, experienced tragedies
and great triumphs.

Also, the goal of Kammerlander and his partner Stephan is to return to the Mt Manaslu to climb the 8,163 meters high summit and eventually descend a new route by skies, Rajendra Lama, Managing Director at Friends Adventure Team, also the local organiser of the expedition ‘Manaslu Berg der Selee’, said, adding that the team left for Mt Manaslu region.

“After 26 years, ascent on Mt Manaslu this time does not only challenge Kammerlander but also confronts him with the tragedy from 1991, which he has not been able to overcome yet.”

Mountaineers Hans Kammerlander (left) and Stephen at a hotel in kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: THT Online

According to the Kammerlander’s bestseller biography ‘Bergsüchtig’, Hans Kammerlander, Friedl Mutschlechner, and Karl Grossrubatscher were only 1,000 meters below the summit when the tragedy took its course on May 10, 1991.

For some inexplicable reasons one of his friends fell and broke his neck, the other one was struck by lightning and instantly killed on Mt Manaslu. Kammerlander, who was also in acute danger of life, survived the storm on the brink of death.

“Due to the burning oil fields in Kuwait in 1991, particles in the atmosphere even reached the Himalaya, which led to high voltage electric fields even at high altitudes.”

During extreme weather events and the soon-to-be-expired ascension permit, a final summit attempt was executed. During the retreat, Karl Grossrubatscher fell for no apparent reason and lost his life.

Kammerlander and Mutschlechner had no other choice than descend further in the snowfall. “They had to leave their friend behind, not least because the weather was getting worse and the snowfall was
getting stronger.”

Mutschlechner and Kammerlander descended to their camp II, because they both had left their skis there for the return, which were necessary now for a fast descent. As the terrain became flatter, they
left the equipment at a serac, only half an hour away from camp I, according to the biography.

Kammerlander said, “The situation was hopeless – a snow storm, thunderstorms, and crevasses everywhere. Each step could be the last one.” Kammerlander turned to Mutschlechner and shouted, “The air is full of electricity. Everything is charged.” The biography quoted Mutschlechner replying: “Yes, I can feel it. My pickle sings “.

“We have to get out of here, there’s a thunderstorm coming.” Mutschlechner tried to appease Kammerlander, “This is no problem at this altitude. We are not on a summit. This is only a flat shaped hill. Nothing will happen to us.”

Kammerlander had said, “I slid on my belly for one or two meter then, the rope tightened. I saw nothing at all. The wind blew the snow into my eyes. Why did Friedl Mutschlechner not give me more rope? I yelled twice. Nothing happened. I roared for him. Nothing. No Answer. I was scared stiff.

I saw nothing, felt nothing, heard nothing. Around us was only the inferno of nature. I thought perhaps the lightning had hit the pickle in Friedl’s backpack? Had he become unconscious? Holding onto the rope, I crawled to him. I put his head in my hands and turned his face to mine. He was not unconscious. Friedl was dead.”

“In panic I tried to dig a hole in the snow. I buried myself like a possessed man. A thunderstorm with incredible force raged around me, and I was in the heart of an incomprehensible chaos. Karl laid up on
the mountain. Dead. Friedl was only a few inches from me. Dead. And I was alive. Why?”

The story will try to unbiasedly scrutinize how the mountains still attract him despite all of the tragic moments he had to surrender.

A biopic of one of the greatest mountaineers of our time, represented with archive footage and with the help of many actors in reenacted scenes on exposed mountains or his childhood home farm, according to Stephan.

“However, the climax of the movie takes place in the here and now and documents the last great adventure of Hans Kammerlander at the 8,163 meters high mountain Manaslu in the Himalaya.”

Kammerlander’s childhood as a son of a mountain farmer and a half-orphan has shaped his character. “If I do not have sponsorships anymore, if nobody wants to see my lectures anymore, if I do not have the necessary financial means anymore, I want to go home to the farm of my family.

There, in the cowshed and in the hay, I always felt the happiest. And I can always return to where I came from with a light heart and without any loss.”

Since 1996, Kammerlander holds the record for the fastest ascent on the north route to the summit of Mount Everest in 16 hours and 40 minutes, followed by the first ski decent from the highest mountain in
the world.

In 2012, Stephan, an experienced climber and skier from Tyrol and also known as the organizsr of the “SOS Nepal Hilfe” had to witness a catastrophic avalanche in which 12 lives were lost.

A very dramatic experience for him, additional he had to document the misfortune for the insurance company.

Kammerlander, the man who keeps asking himself, “Why did I survive and most of my friends had to die?”. Not least he gave up being one of the firsts who have climbed all the eight-thousanders without oxygen because of this experience, the biography reads.

Together with his mentor Reinhold Messner, Kammerlander climbed seven eight-thousanders.

Altogether, he has climbed twelve out of fourteen of these snowy and icy giants without an oxygen bottle. The two South Tyroleans are still regarded as the most successful rope team of the
eight-thousanders.

In one of his recent lectures about the most beautiful ‘Matterhorns’ in the world, the presenter asked him which mountain out of all the ones he has already climbed seems the most beautiful to him. Hans replied, “Hmm, I have climbed over 3000 mountains.

How shall I tell you now which one is the most beautiful? I cannot, but I can tell you which mountain is the most terrible one for me! The Manaslu in Nepal!”

According to reports, his change of mood was easily noticeable in the auditorium, as a joyous, entertaining lecture suddenly changed into a tense silence. “After we failed in 1991, I never wanted to return there.

It did not matter to me anymore whether I had every of the fourteen eight thousanders or not. It was also not important to me to be one of the few people who had climbed every eight thousander without oxygen. I did not care.

My best friend died there. And now, twenty-six years later, I want and have to face this mountain and my fate! It is time for me to complete this and not to put my head in the sand again. “


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