German Speed Team Skiing on Gasherbraum II

Post by blogger | July 21, 2006      

I’m not going to turn this blog into a string of press releases, but an interesting one came in today so I’ll post it. The same guys who did that amazing speed ascent and ski descent of Mustagh Ata last year are on Gasherbraum II, according to Reiner Gerstner of Dynafit:

They just skied today from camp 3 (about 7000 m) to the Basecamp. Skiing is very tough because of steep and hard conditions. They belayed part of the skiing for a section using a nice but steep route in the middle. They were roped two or three times but skied the whole thing without any interruption….. (net skiing about 35-40 minutes, fast!). The plan is that after they have succeeded on this first summit they will go down and rest and after that they plan to do it on one push again…….what a nice but crazy idea…in which you need beside physical and mental strength the right light but high performing material….the Dynafit stuff! We SPEED UP….!!

My pro Dynafit bias aside, I find it very cool that randonnee racing athletes are taking their skills to the great ranges. A sport recursing back to its roots so easily is nice to see in these days of specialization. Here is the press release:

High speed on skis on Gasherbrum ll — 8,035 m high Gasherbrum ll provides the latest challenge for the two extreme athletes Sebastian Haag (27) and Benedikt Böhm (28). The desire to increase their own performance and at the same time enjoy speed in its most intense form– this is what drives Benedikt Böhm and Sebastian Haag from Munich when they begin their ascent of the 8,035 m high Gasherbrum ll in Pakistan.

Just last year the two ski mountaineers reached the limits of their physical capabilities in the Chinese Kuen Lun Mountains when they climbed the 7,456 m high Mustagh Ata. In partially icy temperatures that went down as far as –35 degrees the athletes reached the peak from base camp at 4,450 m in 9 hours and 25 minutes. After that the duo took just 1 hour 16 minutes to return to base camp. The stop watch recorded a total time of 10 hours and 41 minutes for the return trip.

The background to this success story was the decision to climb the highest peaks the same way modern ski touring racers climb the peaks of the Alps. As a member of the German national ski mountaineering team, Böhm has a good grounding in ski tour racing. However, as the two racers did not want to give up skis, snow and speed during the summer months, they have decided to take the race to the highest mountains.

This form of mountaineering requires a good marriage of physical fitness and hi-tech products. Every gram of weight must be trimmed back, so for clothing and equipment only very light materials can be used. “At these altitudes, the choice of equipment can be decisive for the success of an expedition. As a member of the Dynafit-GORE TEX® team we have full confidence in the material of our sponsors who have supported us since we began our mountaineering careers� said Böhm.

On Gasherbrum ll it’s all about speed. At the end of June the two extreme sportsmen headed off for Islamabad. By the end of July they plan to reach the summit of the formidable 8,000 m high mountain in Karakorum in the north east of Pakistan. A neighbour of K2, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum, it is one of the giants among the mightiest peaks on earth.

Very few ski expeditions have ever been attempted on this mountain. The skiers will be faced with their greatest challenge to date, not just from the point of view of altitude, but also as a result of long passages at 45 degree angles and inclines of up to 50 degrees. The ascent on the peak requires not just a high level of technical know-how, experience and fitness but also exceptional skiing ability. The guys approached the expedition with an open mind as to whether they would attempt to set a speed record.

The expedition organiser, The German Alpine Association which also supported their last trip to China, makes sure that everything will go without a hitch. Böhm and Haag prepared for the expedition on many tours in the Alps, from the Waliser Alps to Karwendel. There are hardly any peaks that they have not yet reached. Although both men have full time jobs, they still manage to make time to train every day near their homes in Garmisch and Tegernsee.

For both extreme sportsmen, ski mountaineering is more than just a sport or even a passion. They are driven to reach the limits of their own abilities. This is the power that pushes them to the highest peaks on earth.


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7 Responses to “German Speed Team Skiing on Gasherbraum II”

  1. steve romeo July 21st, 2006 3:18 pm

    That is awesome! I wish I was there…or at least just skiing.

    I got to meet Benedikt when racing in Italy this past winter as part of the Dynafit Racing Team. He was very nice and interested to hear about American trends and techniques. He said he wants to come over and do some skiing as well. I hope I can keep up!

    Good luck to the boys!

    Come on snow!

  2. Clyde July 21st, 2006 3:37 pm

    Hmm, sounds like they only skied to Advanced Base Camp, not Base Camp. Very big difference in both vertical and horizontal distance. Would be nice to know the ascent and descent route they’re taking — standard route is a zoo this year. BTW, G2 has been skied before, from the summit, but Shish or Cho Oyu are better skiing peaks. The whole “speed” thing is just bogus marketing, style and safety are more impressive.

  3. steve romeo July 21st, 2006 4:23 pm

    I got the impression they skied from camp 3 to base camp and were now resting for a summit attempt.

    As far as it being a marketing ploy…I’m not so sure. Isn’t speed often your ally on these big peaks, i.e. less time in the danger zone? Also, isn’t a ‘light is right’, ‘alpine style’ attempt in good form? I think so.

  4. Clyde July 21st, 2006 5:41 pm

    That’s why clarification is needed. For the standard route, it’s about 1000 meters vertical and 7 km horizontal from ABC to BC, with some uphill and a serious icefall — doubt they did all that in 20 minutes. From C3 to ABC is also 1000 m vertical but in only one km, which would be doable in 40 minutes (and still impressive). Of course if they came from the north through Tibet (very rare), that’s a different matter entirely.

    Is it really “alpine style” when you’re using the packed trail established by other teams for almost the entire climb? Typically, only one team each year does most of the real climbing and the rest just follow in their tracks and fixed lines. The true starting point and times are highly debatable as well for any 8000’er, often changing and, um, underestimated. These sorta claims are just for selling sponsors gear and lame bragging but don’t belong in history books. No better than being the first to wear a pink tutu while spinning a hoola hoop on the summit.

  5. Lou July 21st, 2006 5:54 pm

    Make that a blue Gortex tutu for me.

    On a serious note, yeah, IMHO I’ve never been comfortable with the strange ethics of most Himalayan climbing. On the other hand, so long as folks are honest about what they do we can enjoy hearing about their feats.

  6. Andrew McLean July 24th, 2006 8:17 am

    I think this is really cool and a perfect extension of the skills you can learn from ski mountaineering racing. Having met a bunch of European racers, all of whom are excellent mountaineers, I bet their main motivation for doing this was that it seemed fun, not as some evil self promoting stunt for their sponsors.

    But, it was interesting to see that their main sponsor was the German Alpine Club. I can’t imagine the American Alpine Club ever even associating themselves with something like this, let alone funding it.

  7. bernd September 16th, 2006 2:33 pm

    Hello Folks,

    I´m going along with Clyde. I think, he´s right to be very critical with stuff like this. And now it´s regrettably finally almost not more than a BIG marketing BANG. (e. g. Dynafit catalogue is full of that stuff). In several reports is peculated, that even Luis Stitzinger, guide and even responsable head of the expedition, successfully takes part of the SpeedAscension (and if he hadn´t had to do his work all the days before, who knows if he finally couldn´t have been the strongest of the three – and frist at the summit?) And in some other reports it´s glorified at least upto the unblievable, which is finally obscuring the performance as a whole (and there´s never any need to glorrify a de facto brillant performance).

    Particularly with regard to a report which appeared in the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”, a well-spreaded daily newspaper mainly in southern Germany, where Benedikt was interviewed by Tanja Rest (she better should make interviews and reports about cooking – sorry), I was very surprised and rather disappointed that Benedikt let this very weak report go to press. Apart from not mentioning Luis once again, the SpeedAscension is glorrified as the most clean way of climbing such high mountains, but it´s not mentioned, that Benedikt and Sebastian were members of a commercial standard expediton – that they even benefited from all the logistics which are snided in the report for other expeditions. And in their first ascension (to acclimatize) they needed the same effort and even logistic than all the other expeditions too. (which are discredited in this report). They were normal members of a normal expedition which uses the already installed fixropes for example. – In this respect Clyde is right being sceptical. And even the aspect of less safety and very high risk is definetly correct.

    I think the sort of reporting… making publicity for this event now …glorrifying it, is not very usefull for the success of the whole project. Great performances don´t need that. And real hardcore sportsmen don´t have to stand for that. Normally they don´t speak, but they act.

    Finally I want to say, I´ve a great respect for the performance of basti and Bene . they are really strong and even nice guys. They worked hard and very strong. It´s just a bit exaggerated to glorrify their performance like you now can find all over the WWW. They are just normal persons – and I think, they are not the only ones in our world to do that. – They are just privileged – that´s all.

    :-)Bernd – member of the expedition

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