An Ueli Steck in the making?Dream Wanderlust
German alpinist Jost Kobusch (25) summited Nangpai Gosum II (7296m) on 3rd October, 2017, taking three days to reach the top, in a solo alpine style climb.
Nangpai Gosum II was the 4th highest unclimbed peak in the world prior to this ascent. Located on the border of China and Nepal, Nangpai Gosum II is one of three adjacent peaks of the Nangpai range, the other two being Nangpai Gosum I and Nangpai Gosum III.
Jost Kobusch initially planned to climb the South Face, the route that the French had begun. He was forced to change his plan due to dry conditions on the route. But he did a route next to it without using safety equipment except for a harness in the event of a helicopter rescue.
Jost has, over the last decade, become renowned for his alpine style of climbing. In 2014, he was the youngest climber to summit Ama Dabalam solo. In 2016 he summited Annapurna solo without supplementary oxygen and became the youngest German to do so.
In an exclusive interview with Dream Wanderlust, Jost Kobusch talks about his epic First ascent of Nangpai Gosum II and his philosophy of climbing.
DW: Jost, congratulations on your latest success on Nangpai Gosum II.
DW: What were your reasons for choosing this virgin peak?
Jost: I wanted to leave my own trail instead of following the footsteps of others. Especially today when you can book 8000m expeditions in a catalogue it became really hard to find a true adventure.
DW: When you were doing the "French route" your anchors came off and you were hanging by a "half hammered piton". What, if you can recall them, were your thoughts at that point in time? In retrospect what are your reactions now?
Jost: It felt like I was doing an underwater roll backwards - you can imagine it more like not knowing where up and down is. At that moment I reacted with confusion and the question "what the Fu*# just happened?" Cause I was sure my belay was set up in an acceptable way. Once I realized that the ice quality was worse than I thought and changed within minutes I realized that this route was not working out.
DW: Your style, if we may call it so, can be described as "light and fast alpinism", please elaborate.
Jost: I then approached another route without any ropes or safety equipment apart from my harness. This kind of soloing is way more efficient and lighter.
DW: Your style also means "going solo". Does that make it difficult or easier? Why solo?
Jost: Well I have to stay in terrain that I feel comfortable with soloing but in the end I work really good like that. I can easily reach the "flow" and take decisions quickly while having the feeling of always being able to give a 100% of my personal capacities.
DW: Going solo means feeling lonely. Do you feel the loneliness? How do you overcome it?
Jost: I'm by myself but I'm not lonely.
DW: When you start off you obviously have the bigger picture in mind - the "macro plan". Once you are on the mountain do you still consciously think about the macro plan or do you break it up into manageable "micro plans" in dealing with the immediate problem?
Jost: I only focus on the next steps - having the big picture in Mind all the time make things seem way more difficult.
DW: Going solo you necessarily have to depend only on your own evaluation of the situation. You also realise that altitude related hypoxia may cloud your judgement. How do you rationalise "this far and no far" and decide to go down?
Jost: Before I start I think about anything that can go wrong and define very precisely in which scenarios I will return. I got a quite good feeling for my body over the years so I just listen what it tells me. Once I feel the slightest touch of an unacceptable risk, I will return. Its already nice enough to be there on that mountain and if it works out I will stand on the summit. But the summit is a bonus for me.
DW: Have you ever faced such a situation? Tell us about it please.
Jost: Yes, I faced such a situtuation on Ama Dablam in 2014 where I suffered from high altitude pulmonary edema. At that time I was less experienced and thought that I was just extremely tired. I managed to return to the base camp after summiting and realized that I was coughing solid stuff and that it must be serious. Took me two days walking to the airport and then I spend 3 Days in a Hospital in Kathmandu...
DW: Your first 8k was Annapurna solo. You were brilliantly successful. But in retrospect do you now think that you should have started the 8k list with an easier less dangerous peak?
Jost: Of course this is not the best peak to start with when you are planning to climb 8K peaks but I felt that I want to escape the crowds and searched for true alpinism at one of the rarest climbed 8000m peaks - so I think it was exactly the right peak for me to climb.
DW: In 2014 you did Ama Dablam, free solo. Tell us a little about it.
Jost: That was a really pure climb in a way I like to do things. I was the first to summit that year, so there were no people and no reliable fixed lines, it felt like a real adventure. For me this is a good example of minimalistic solo climbing.
DW: As a child you were scared of heights. Are you still scared?
Jost: Sometimes I'm still afraid of falling hahahaha - but climbing helped me to overcome that fear. You could see it as a confrontational therapy :-)
DW: In 2015 you luckily survived the avalanche at Everest Base Camp which killed 22 people. Did it change the way you look at mountaineering now? Did it affect your choice of going solo?
Jost: It might sounds weird but that event was a very positive event for me. Before that avalanche I always wanted to study medicine, but surviving this made me realize that everything that happens after this event is a bonus, I could have been dead. So I wanted to do what I honestly always wanted to do but never thought was possible - just continue to climb.
DW: Ueli Steck was a super athlete and a meticulous planner. Yet he fell to his death. How did it affect you? Did it in any way change your style of climbing?
Jost: It's another warning to be careful, that made me realize once again that there is a risk in what I do.
DW: Your email address is "Jost go for it". Please explain the rationale behind it because it sounds like your motto.
Jost: If you have a dream, you should just go for it - otherwise you might never do it. Jost go for it!
DW: What are your future plans in the Himalayas?
Jost: I dream about climbing up the Hornbein Couloir on Mt. Everest... In winter - solo :D
DW: Thank you and best of luck.
Start position: Nangpai Gosum II Basecamp 5090m
End position: Advanced Base Camp-5600m
Total ascent that day: 410m
Start time: 11:00am
Arrival time: 3:30pm
Total time: 4 hour 30 min
Number of pitches: walking -> 8.5km over an granite block covered glacier.
Position of camp: On an avalanche cone in front of a granite Wall, in between avalanche cones.
Start position: Advanced Base Camp-5600m
End position: Camp-1- 6400m
Total ascent that day: 800m
Start time: 03:00am
Arrival time: 4:00pm
Total time: 13 hours
Number of pitches: Soloing without ropes -> first few hundred meters of gradually increasing steepness - then a long and steep traverse topping out to a fairly safe campspot.
Position of camp: Under a rock spike on an Ice wall.
Start position: Camp-1- 6400m
End position: Camp-2 -6840m
Total ascent that day: 440m
Start time: 11:00am
Arrival time: 2:00pm
Total time: 3 hours
Number of pitches: Soloing without ropes -> relaxed ascent through a fairly steep ice field.
Position of camp: Under a rock spike on the Ice wall.
Start position: Camp-2 -6840m
End position: Camp-2 -6840m
Total ascent that day: 456m + about 100m
Start time: 00:00am
Summit Arrival time: 10:35am
Arrival time in Camp: 17.00pm
Total time: 17 hours
Number of pitches: Soloing without ropes -> 100m above the camp I faced mixed conditions, ice quality was like sugar on the rocks, quite technical passage. Above that it flattened to about 50° I reached the pre-summit of approx. 7200m at about 5.30 am and went on an 800m traverse from there through deep powder. After descending the pre-summit I ascended again to the main Summit, it wasn't too steep but I sank into the snow up to my waist sometimes.
Wind speeds of up to 60kmh blew away my tracks and left me in a cloud on the descent - I went with my feeling and eventually found the way down.
Start position: Camp2 -6840m
End position: Basecamp 5090m
Total descent that day: 1750m
Start time in Camp: 9.00am
Arrival time in Camp: 4.00pm
Total time: 7 hours
Number of pitches: Soloing down the same route backwards without ropes. ;-)