BD athlete David Göttler reports on attempt to climb the south face of Nepal's Gauri Shankar (7146m)
Black Diamond athlete David Göttler set off on an expedition to Nepal with Stefan Glowacz and Klaus Fengler earlier this year, with the hopes of opening a new route on the south face of Gauri Shankar (7146m). The 32 year-old alpinist from Munich lets us have an inside peek to his daily diary, as well as some awesome photos. Gauri and Shankar are the nicknames for the Hindu deities, Parvati and Shiva. Thanks to Klaus Fengler for the excellent photos posted below.
I am always astounded how fast frustration and disappointment can creep into the background of an expedition. I experienced this frustration in a big way this spring as Stephan, Klaus and I set an a serious and ambitious goal, that was perhaps even impossible, but we were captivated from the first minute of our planning. I’ve seen the massive south face of the 7100-meter high Gauri Shankar two times previously on layovers in Rolwaling Tal in Nepal from far away and stopped to study the face. The 1800-meter vertical and complicated rock wall fascinates every climber.
Diary Entry May 4th, 2011
We find ourselves in a narrow valley, surrounded by the sub-peaks and endless ridges of Gauri Shankar. An amazing place, but unfortunately only at 3600m, but nicely protected by a huge boulder so we can stay dry from the daily rain and lightning storms. Our tents are bound to the wall and only get wet when there are massive winds accompanying the storms. We feel like Alibaba and the 40 Thieves, who were actually 35 men too many. Together, our crew was made up of 6 men: Stephan, Klaus and I, as well as our cook, Dhal Baradur and his helpers, Zandra and Nauwang, who took care of our basecamp.
After the steep and tight canyon we had to ascend with all our necessities, we were able to study our route in more detail. Unbelievably, it was just above our basecamp; first up three steep little climbing sections and then past a grass face and a few rock steps, then over a glacier and we were all set up at the base of the wall. It took 5 days so far to get to this point.
Diary Entry May 6th, 2011
Today was the first washing day, so we planned to shower and do laundry before noon. Now we are waiting for the first weather update from Karl Gabel for the next few days. If it looks clear, we will plan to start tomorrow, and try to get up on the first steep pitches on the pillar, where we will set up the next camp and continue acclimatizing. Now, it’s all going well and even the “high-altitude-rookies” Stephan and Klaus seem to be acclimatizing well, and both set personal records yesterday at 5000m (16,500 feet).
All at once, the weather started getting on all of our nerves. Since we’ve been here there hasn’t been a single day without precipitation of some kind; Storms, rain and snow are forecasted daily for us here. The entire south face of Gauri Shankar is completely veiled in white attire. Until the weather becomes more stable, we decide not to invest too much energy on the wall just yet. Therefore, everything is still going according to our plans, and we decide not to give up at any cost.
We’re all excited to see what the first meter of climbing will actually be like, as we stare at the wall whenever possibly with our giant telescope. Belays look good up on the pillar, but we’ll have to wait to see what it all really looks like once we get on the route.
Diary Entry May 8th, 2011
Disappointment, anger and frustration pretty much sums up my emotions for today. For the past 3 days, we’ve made our way up on the mountain to 5050m, and have ferried up the fixed ropes and equipment, fought through knee-deep snow, breaking a new trail every time up. All for nothing, as we’ve only been allowed to get a few meters up the pillar on Gauri Shankar.
We’ve tried two different options, but the conditions unfortunately don’t give us a good chance at either. First, the rock variation, which the midday snowfall made unclimbable; and then the ice variation, which was just loose and vertical snow. Both variations wear on our nerves and give us a scare. But on an 1800m rock wall, it takes time to get used to the difficulties and try to climb one pitch per hour. Clearly, we have to ask ourselves if this is our destiny or if we’ve made any mistakes along the way. Have we fought hard enough or tried all the various options? Or did we already know that we had no chance to ever even climb this massive mountain?
We know that this is an ambitious project and the chances of success were fairly slim at any rate, but we wanted to give it a try. Venturing into new territories means heading into an adventure, and the positive thing here is that we’ve gathered valuable experience that may prove to be very valuable for the next expedition. For example, the better the weather, the better the chances for us to get higher up the wall. It took awhile until the disappointment set in, but in the end it’s just part of the journey. Thanks to all who supported us and believed in us, especially Carine and my family, friends and sponsors. Thanks to Ralf, Gerlinde and Nicole from Amical Alpin and everyone at Thamserku Trekking in Nepal!
And after all this? 16 days of rain, snow and storms in our basecamp and on the mountain, after exhaustingly ferrying loads up the 1500m of breaking trail in wet snow. What kind of memories did that leave us? We remember moments when we were full of hope, motivation and confidence. A plan, a story that we wanted to accomplish.
We’ve at least got our foot in the door, even if we’ve left just a small crack open, and even if our chances for success on another attempt may be just as slim. We’ve gained so much information, experience and ideas that it would be wasteful not to capitalize on them. So as soon as possible, we plan to pack up our ice axes and crampons, tents and climbing gear, and send it all off to Nepal again. Because we really want to live our dream! That’s the beauty of alpinism!
— David Göttler