Press release) German “Sky Skier” Luis Stitzinger is back in the Himalayas – this time to climb the world´s eighth highest peak, Manaslu 8163 m.
In the last couple of years the Germany based climber (Munich, Bavaria) successfully climbed 5 Eight-Thousand-Meter-Peaks in the Himalaya and Karakorum together with his wife, Alix von Melle: Cho Oyu 8201 m (2000 & 2010), Gasherbrum II 8035 m (2006), Nanga Parbat 8125 m (2008), Dhaulagiri 8167 m (2009) and Broad Peak 8051 m (2011) as well as attempted others, as Makalu to 8050 m (2010) and K2 to 8000 m (2011).
Stitzinger had successfully skied some of these peaks (Gasherbrum II, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, K2) on the descent and is probably one of the most achieved “sky skiers” worldwide at present. A passion for which his wife Alix cannot warm herself: “I am happy to climb these high mountains and get back down safely on my feet. I know my limits well and I do have neither the stamina nor the skiing technique Luis does.”
Together with their fellow team members Rainer Jäpel, Saskia Sippel and Christian Ranke, the couple wants to climb the peak´s Northeast Face without the help of high porters or artificial oxygen.
Subsequently Stitzinger and some of his mates want to try to accomplish the first consecutive ski descent of the mountain from top to bottom.
In the fall season of 2011 the British climbers Kenton Cool and Andy Eggleston had reportedly achieved a successful ski run from the top of Manaslu but they were not the first to attempt this high goal.
As early as 1981 the two Austrians Sepp Millinger and Peter Wörgötter carved the first ski lines into the mountain´s immaculate Northeast Face, an incredible feat at that time and the first ski descent from an Eight-Thousand-Meter-Peak ever.
Undone: uninterrupted line
In the years to follow other attempts were made to ski the entirety of the vast white flanks of the “Mountain of the Spirit” including a speed-ski attempt by the German climbers Sebastian Haag and Benedikt Böhm in 2007 who tried to climb the peak in one day and ski down the route to Basecamp.
They reached an altitude of over 7000 m before they had to turn back due to masses of snow and increasing avalanche hazard.
None of the skiers so far has managed to draw an uninterrupted line into the snow, from the highest point to the foot of the mountain, however. Even Cool and Eggleston had to carry down parts of the route (steep passage between Camp 4, 7300 m, and 7000 m as well as the final 400 vertical meters to the end of the glacier) in 2011.
Grandmaster: it’s not a ski without skis on
Not all skiers apply rules as rigid as Swiss grandmaster of the sport, Silvain Saudan, whom the comment “if you have to take off your skis for a couple of meters, it is no longer skiing but climbing down a mountain” is ascribed to.
Actually, just as in other sport disciplines, it is a never ending debate in the skiing scene what should be considered the limits of skiing, what should be allowed and forbidden.
Stitzinger lies very close to Saudan´s views, he admits: “I think for a valid ski descent you should really ski all passages that are skiable.
There is no point in down climbing a pure rock face as the “Kinshofer Wall” on Nanga Parbat with your skis put on – but you could try to find a way around it (author’s note – as Stitzinger did when he skied a parallel couloir to the “Löw Ice Couloir” on the Diamir Face of Nanga Parbat 2008, or later on a complete new line of descent through the Central Diamir Face).
Crux: finding the best line
The big goal in skiing on these complicated peaks often enough does not lie in skiing steep and steeper but in finding an intricate line to avoid the greatest difficulties and dangers.
Certainly, there are limitations. And practice often enough doesn´t match theory when you have to pack up your camp on a mountain and ski down steep slopes with a 25 kg pack.
Who wouldn´t be tempted to call it quits then?” It is not the style of others he wants to criticize, Stitzinger is eager to point out. “This is one of the nicest things about climbing, I think – that you do not have a strict set of rules like in track and field athletics. To a certain degree you can do as you please. You have to decide for yourself what and how you wanna do it!”
Follow the expedition at Stitzinger & von Melle´s websitein their Manaslu Expedition Diary.
Mountaineers such as Luis like to add yet another (scary and exhausting) dimension to their high altitude climbs. Last year Stitzinger skied down from the col on Broad Peak, and while not topping out K2, he did carve a 2,800 meters long run on the savage mountain. Check in on his site for pics and details. “I’ll be coming back for another attempt on K2,” he said.