How many deaths on earth
Messner: deaths like on K2 are "inevitable"
Christian Schütte: For eleven mountaineers from different countries, the attempt to climb the K2 in the Himalayas ended in disaster. At one of the key points on the route, they were hit by an avalanche over the weekend. Only a few who were nearby during the departure were able to save themselves. The fate of an Italian mountaineer is still uncertain. It is said that he is on his way to base camp. An attempt is to be made today to retrieve it. He is apparently suffering from frostbite.
The South Tyrolean mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who has climbed all eight-thousanders on earth without additional oxygen, says this will not be the last accident in this dimension. He's on the phone now. Good morning, Mr. Messner!
Reinhold Messner: Good Morning.
Chute: They firmly expect further tragic accidents on K2 or on Mount Everest. Why?
Messner: I don't expect it, it's inevitable. When hundreds of people travel with tour groups to K2 or Everest and have the whole way groomed and rely on everything going well then, sooner or later an accident has to happen because the people who book it - that will Yes, booked correctly - they don't have the experience to act independently, to choose the right path. And if a fixed rope is suddenly dragged along, as on K2, some of the people can no longer come down and are completely at the mercy of the mountain nature, the storms of the cold.
In 1996 we had the same problem and then the same disaster on Everest. Now here at K2 again a large group of mountaineers who were in danger of death. Nobody knows how this will turn out over the next few decades. If this humbug doesn't stop with the guided trips to the highest peaks in the world, tragedy will come again and again.
Chute: The expedition members who died in the accident paid money to have someone lead them up to the summit. Didn't these climbers expect that the real price they would pay could be their lives?
Messner: No. These in particular do not count on it. When someone organizes an expedition on their own, as was the case a few weeks ago on Nanga Parbat, where an accident also happened, but they chose a new path, organized it themselves, knew exactly what to expect and are concerned with Fear got in there. I'm sorry that someone had an accident then. This of course also applies to the tragedy on K2. But to be clear: these groups at K2 have more or less booked a seat in an offered trip, all inclusive: base camp, oxygen equipment on site, of course a groomed slope up to the summit with handrail ropes where you can hold on, with individual camps, with guide, animation. They go up in large groups like the lemmings and believe that when there are so many of us and when everything is prepared, nothing will happen. This organization will have made sure that the mountain is safe. But a mountain is never safe! A mountain is so big in relation to us humans that we can never guarantee that we have everything under control. It is only possible to survive on the mountain if I am always on my guard, if I know all the dangers and if I have the utmost respect for this size and these dangers and turn back, turn around when it becomes too dangerous, when something is not more is quite perfect. But when it is suggested, of course, that everything is fine, everything is prepared in a bite-sized manner, then these people run into ruin as a group and not just a few.
Chute: Who do you think is to blame for such fatal accidents? Is it the unsuspecting mountaineers or is it the expedition leaders who offer their services?
Messner: I don't want to talk about guilt in this context. It's not about guilt, it's about stupidity. On the one hand - and that was the first - a demand arose. There are thousands upon thousands of Sunday mountaineers. I don't want to say that disparagingly. Even a Sunday mountaineer can be an excellent mountaineer. It's just not alpinists who don't have the time in their lives, who don't have the patience to train themselves to the last grade. These mountaineers naturally want the prestige that a K2 summit or the Everest summit gives, and they want to buy it. That is, there is a demand.
Then on the other side comes the offer. There is someone who says, I can organize that. I'll get 20 Scherpas. I'll get some mountain guides there. Of course, a passage costs $ 20, 25, 30, 40,000 dollars to get to the summit and, if it's okay, to come back again. Then we have a market. This is tourism. Supply and demand.
Who is to blame - Both are to blame. The whole thing is just a nonsense. And as long as it remains clear to the public that this ascent of K2 is just as important as the self-organized expedition with all the risk that the actor himself bears, there will be this mass tourism on the big mountains. I have always said that mountaineering and alpinism start where tourism ends. But tourism has meanwhile found its way to the summit of Mount Everest, of course also to the summit of K2, to the summit of Nanga Parbat and Cho Oyu.
Chute: In your opinion, the casualties did not belong there on the K2. How do you feel after the accident? Shake your head, pity?
Messner: Basically, I wait for such disasters every year. It only takes one thing to get out of hand. In 1996 on Everest it was an afternoon storm that was normal on Everest. This time it was an avalanche that broke loose from the icefall just below the summit. Everyone who passes there knows that the avalanche can go off there. So it sensibly goes around this point in a wide arc. Back then, with Michel Bacherer, a German, I didn't need a fixed rope to climb up there. They got a fixed rope hung there, not hung it themselves, but a guide hangs it in there. This fixed rope was torn out and the other half of the catastrophe was programmed because people couldn't come down without this fixed rope. You have to imagine a fixed rope like a handrail rope in the wall that you hold onto so as not to slip. The next time it may be a weakness of a climber in the summit area, where the rescue will be very difficult. Everything is stopped. Then they come into the night and don't come down any more. When someone trudges to the summit at K2 at eight o'clock in the evening, I wonder where the brain has gone.
Chute: Mr. Messner, you have long been calling for an end to mountain tourism in the Himalayas. It just seems that this appeal has so far echoed unheard from the summit. Will anything change now after this disaster?
Messner: Unfortunately, nothing will change. I was almost certain that in '96, after Jon Krakauer's great book "In icy heights", which described it in detail, tourism on Everest would end. - He didn't stop. He has become more. The organizers have grown. In the meantime, one-legged, 70-year-old sick people have also been led up Everest, all using this method.
I respect everyone who reaches the summit of Everest. But it is only valuable for one's own experience if someone does it on their own responsibility. Here the responsibility is somehow split up. Nobody really knows how. That is why we cannot speak of responsibility or speak of guilt. But mountaineering is basically a self-organized, self-supported and self-responsible activity. If I hand over responsibility to an organizer, to a tour guide, then I'm no longer a mountaineer, but a tourist. And a tourist does not find out anything on Everest or on K2. He has none of it. He was just panting, tormenting, and scared, but in the end he has the prestige of having climbed Everest or K2 in his pocket like a trophy. But this trophy is worthless!
Chute: The South Tyrolean extreme mountaineer and author Reinhold Messner. Thank you for talking to us.
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