Austrian alpinist Hansjörg Auer (34) summited Lupghar Sar West (7157m) on 7th July, 2018, taking two days to reach the top, in a solo alpine style climb. It was the first solo ascent of the peak
Lupghar Sar West is located in Karakoram range. Under the leadership of Hans Gloggner, an eight members German expedition team first climbed the peak in 1979 via the South West Ridge. [AAJ 1980]
Hansjörg departed on 6th July, 2018 from Base Camp (4500m). Within seven and half hours, he reached at around 6200m. Considering the place was good to use as a good bivy spot, he spent that night there and next morning he climbed following a line on the left side of the West Face to reach the steep North West Ridge. On the same day, at 11:30am he reached the summit of the mountain.
In an exclusive interview to Dream Wanderlust, Hansjörg Auer talks about his epic First Solo ascent of Lupghar Sar West.
DW: Congratulations Hansjörg on your great solo first ascent of Lupghar Sar West.
Hansjörg: Thanks. But it was not the first ascent of the peak. Solo yes.
DW: Thank you so much for this interview.
Hansjörg: You're welcome.
DW: As an eminent soloist of the present times, please tell us about the importance of
i. Technical ability
iv. Ability to rapidly assess situations and respond adequately.
Hansjörg: I don't want to reduce an adventure like the solo ascent of Lupghar Sar West down to a few characteristic things. Sure you need all that things at highest level.
DW: Not just the rock and ice, you are also doing big walls and big mountains solo. Please talk about this change of scale.
Hansjörg: I was always doing many different disciplines in climbing. Actually I started with mountaineering. So I don't see it as a big change more back to my passion of the early years. Solo high mountain was my first experience. Since Kunynag Chhish East in 2013 I always wanted to know how it feels to be alone in high altitude. And I'm happy that I made this experience now. It was not always easy to keep my doubts low while getting ready for the attempt. When you're climbing solo you take more risk, but it feels so great to move light and fast in high altitude on a technical mountain. I felt how much more is possible in high altitude, not necessarily thinking about climbing solo.
DW: What is the difference between soloing an Alpine Rock/ice and a Himalayan big face?
Hansjörg: I think it's different, because the chance to solo a rock climb appears more often in your life. The chance to solo a high mountain is much more rare. Furthermore how you live the moments on the mountain is very different. Everything feels more focused on performance than emotions.
DW: How do you assess which peak is good and safe for a solo climb? What informations do you seek to ensure a safe climb?
Hansjörg: I always try to find out as much as possible. But many question marks will always stay, because peaks like Lupghar Sar were not often attempted in the past. This time the big question mark was not only the mountain itself, but also if and how I will be able to attempt it alone.
DW: What is your rationale for choosing less frequented remote peaks? Does that make it more exciting and challenging or more dangerous?
Hansjörg: Since I climbed the SW-Face of Kunyang Chhish East in 2013 with my brother Matthias and Simon Anthamatten I checked out many peaks in lower and upper Hunza Valley, cause I fell a bit in love with that place. I'm more attracted by mountains with less climbing activity rather than regular visited areas, even if you're sometimes not getting exactly that what you want. But that makes it more exciting, yes.
DW: High altitude soloing requires sustained focus on the job at hand for a prolonged period. Does that blunt the emotional enjoyment of the climb?
Hansjörg: When climbing alone, everything feels more focused on the actual performance, more than the emotions. Climbing alone at high altitude I felt far less emotions than I was used too. Interestingly, this made pushing aside psychologically difficult moments of doubts much easier. Maybe because my focus on reaching the summit was even stronger. And if you climb alone, you need that really strong inner drive, because nobody is there to help you in those moments of lack of motivation or doubts.
DW: How do you decide the risk/benefit ratio at a certain point on the climb? Is it wholly objective or is there also a subjective element involved?
Hansjörg: Listen to my inner voice and also use all my experience are the most two important things beside logically decide due to see things and feel the mountain range when being there at the moment.
DW: Considering that you only take a 5mm 60m rope on your climbs, would you do a climb which can take two or more ropes to leave behind for an abseil?
DW: If a round trip from Base Camp to summit and back takes more than 3-4 days, would you set up stocked higher camps before the final push or would you rely on bivvys still?
Hansjörg: Bivys and alpine style only.
DW: What fall back plans, safety net do you leave in place before you set off?
Hansjörg: No, not really.
DW: How do you deal with the loneliness of a solo climb?
Hansjörg: That's a good question. I think I'm a person who simply likes to be out alone sometimes.
DW: Since awards are given for the "best" climbs of the year, do you think solo climbs should be judged separately from team climbs?
Hansjörg: I don't care anymore about getting awarded or not.
DW: A few words about your immediate and long-term plans please.
Hansjörg: Climbing and mountaineering like always.
DW: Best of luck and thank you once again.
Hansjörg: Thanks for the interview.