08. April, 2011 , ,

Expedition into the unknown: Stefan Glowacz in the Himalayas

Aim: First ascent of Gauri Shanka south face

When Stefan Glowacz talks about his life, he likes to talk about types of climbing as if they are different games.That is because he has played most of them professionally, setting new standards: from competitive climbing at international events to alpine climbing in the remotest regions of the world.There is just one game he has not tried yet: climbing at high altitude.All that is going to change now, because on April 18th Glowacz will be heading to Nepal with top alpine climber David Göttler and specialist climbing and nature photographer Klaus Fengler.Here they want to ascend the 7,030-metre southern summit of the Gauri Shanka – but not by the normal route, of course.

A dream that has grown over the years

“I don’t know.” That is the short and sharp answer Stefan Glowacz gives when asked what is waiting for him in Nepal and whether he will be able to cope with the altitude. The professional climber cannot judge the situation because he has never experienced it. He has already conquered the most difficult alpine climbing routes far away from civilisation. His wish to experience high altitude climbing has been brewing up inside over the years. “Nepal and the Himalaya mountains have become more and more fascinating recently”, says the 46-year-old. This expedition fulfils his dream.

The 1,800-metre south face: high alpine virgin terrain

The objective set by Glowacz, David Göttler and Klaus Fengler is the Gauri Shanka, or more precisely, the virgin south face. The rock face is around 1,800 metres high and leads to the southern summit of Gauri Shanka (7,030 metres). Information about this area is very little. “We do not even have sufficient information to develop a battle plan”, says the professional climber. There are very few clear photos of this face. All that he could detect when analysing these photos is that the granite wall is “extremely steep”. Glowacz is expecting high alpine terrain – grade of difficulty unknown.

An exceptional team for an exceptional expedition

On an expedition like this, the team is absolutely decisive. Without his top-rate climbing partners “my many first ascents just would not have been possible”, says the professional climber. Klaus Fengler and David Göttler will accompany him to Nepal.
Fengler has been climbing with Glowacz for seven years now. The photographer and experienced mountaineer was part of the team in Patagonia, on Baffin Island and in Venezuela. His nature and climbing shots are published in international magazines. The 47-year-old will also document the two months in Nepal with captivating photos.

David Göttler will play an important role. The 32-year-old training partner of Stefan Glowacz has a great deal of experience in high altitude climbing. He accompanied professional mountaineer Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner on expeditions as her cameraman; they both stood on Broad Peak (8,047 metres), Dhaulagiri (8,167 metres) and Lohtse (8,516 metres). He was also there when the 40-year-old attempted K2 on two occasions and had to turn round after reaching over 8,000 metres. He has also been on Gauri Shanka before, although on a different route: in 2008 David Göttler had to give up at 6,400 metres before reaching the south ridge due to dangerous weather conditions.

Other factors are also important, in addition to having the right team: “it is not just my climbing partners I need to be able to rely on, my equipment is important too”, says Stefan Glowacz. “Reliable clothing is absolutely essential on an expedition characterised by uncertainty. That is why I can place my trust in my equipment partners of many years, GORE-TEX and Marmot.”

Monk gives permission

Little is known about the approach. On-route to the start of the climb the three climbers will soon leave the well-trodden trekking route to enter an unmapped side valley. They expect to find steep terrain with rock outcrops and meadows. On their march they will be accompanied by porters. That’s because Glowacz has said he would like to “adhere to the customs of the region”. And they stipulate that porters be employed. It is also a local custom to request permission from the lama in the monastery to climb what is a holy mountain for the Hindu and Buddhist population.

A completely new experience

The expedition starts in Kathmandu on April 18th. After two days Glowacz, Fengler and Göttler will be brought by bus to Singate, from where they will continue on foot. After one week the climbers want to have reached the point at almost 5,000 metres where they intend to set up base camp. That is followed by an intensive two- to three-week acclimatisation phase before the first summit ascent is attempted. They want to complete the face alpine-style in no more than five days and then tackle the final 200 metres to conquer the 7,030-metre-high Gauri Shanka.

Two more days are planned for the descent. On June 5th the three mountaineers return home – Glowacz with one completely new experience in the bag. “If this turns out to be a positive experience, then this is a long way from being my last expedition to a high mountain”, he says.



His trusty companions on the expedition:

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