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Hans Kammerlander, a world-class
Kammerlander
  1 2 cv 
In your book Malato di Montagna you talk about your passion for the mountains which began as an eight year old when you followed two tourists to the summit of the Moosstock…

Yes, I followed them because I was curious, and on the summit I felt one of the strongest emotions ever. That day was one of the most important of my life and, in a sense, the experience was a revelation.

Have you ever felt a similar emotion since then?

Yes, but a long time later on Everest in 1996. It was a dream come true, a dream that I'd been pursuing for a long, long time.

Talking about Everest, did you really want to accomplish the fastest ascent and descent?

No, it happened by chance. During the bivouac I got scared, so I left that evening and climbed throughout the night. I hadn't intended on setting a speed record, just the first ski descent.

What remains from these emotions?

It's really hard to answer a question like this because, as usual, words can't describe an emotion. It's like asking why you climb. It's a feeling inside that you just can't describe. In answer to this question a colleague of mine said it's like making love: it can't be described, it just has to be done.

Is this the famous mountain sickness, the need for adventure?

This "sickness" is also an addiction. I didn't think I was addicted to mountains, but during those last meters up on Everest I realised I was. I was exhausted but I needed it that much that I knew that if I didn't reach the top, I would have to go back there. And it's this addiction that continuously pushes you forwards.

If you climb all 14 eight thousand meter peaks, will this "addiction" remain?

What I really desire and what really attracts me right now is to ski down K2. If I manage this then I'll have achieved all I want. I'll be able to enjoy the long return back down along the path.
I immagine I'll always stay in the mountains, as a Mountain Guide and perhaps I'll climb easier mountains.
I would also like to be able to climb up the Moosstock, the mountain I first climbed as an eight year old, when I'm eighty.

Will you continue to return to this mountain?

Yes, and I always enjoy doing so. I can measure my fitness there. I know exactly how quick I am and whether I'm ready for the 8000m peaks.
I like running to the summit, sitting down and remembering. I can see the long path which started when I was a child and I realise how long and difficult it was at times. But I have to say that the memories are always nice, even during the hardest and most painful moments.

K2 is your "problem". Why do you want to do it in a harder way, that is, why ski down it?

Skiing has always been my great passion. Climbing came later and immediately became extremely important. Combining these two disciplines produces a really strong emotion, and being able to do both on a mountain such as Everest, or other 8000ers such as K2, is of course an incredible dream.
I also feel that climbing via the normal route doesn't satisfy me, since the probability of reaching the top is so high that I'd miss the uncertainty. This tension which stimulates and pushes me on would be lost on a normal route.

Of late I've mostly been searching for this adventure and these emotions. So it's not so much a collection of summits, but a search for the unknown, an exploration.
Reaching the summit isn't very important. What counts more is the intensity of the experience, especially if you share it with a good partner.



Kammerlander on K2
Hans Kammerlander on K2.
photo Kammerlander archive
This "sickness" is also an addiction.

I didn't think I was addicted to mountains, but during those last meters up on Everest I realised I was.

I was exhausted but I needed it that much that I knew that if I didn't reach the top, I would have to go back there.

And it's this addiction that continuously pushes you forwards.
So in many ways you're still that eight year old who throws away his schoolbag and follows tourists.
Your Himalayan experience began with Reinhold Messner with whom you climbed seven 8000m peaks. What memories do you have of this time?

Every beginning is special, and this is true of my first 8000m peak, Cho Oyu. There were so many unanswered questions such as whether I'd be able to withstand the altitude. I didn't know what to expect, so it was a great advantage to have someone as expert as him beside me, who helped me avoid the mistakes I would surely otherwise have made.
One of the things that sticks clearly in my mind is the traverse of the two Gasherbrum: a marvellous clean ascent, 8 days in pure alpine style.
It was one of my hardest ascents and this level of difficulty can be upped only through the Everest-Lhotse traverse.

Is the Everest-Lhotse traverse a dream of yours?

It would be the next step, perhaps a thing for the next generation. For me personally it wouldn't be easy because I've already climbed both Everest and Lhotse, and it would be extremely difficult to find the energy to give so much again.

You were on Lhotse together with Reinhold Messner. It was his fourteenth 8000m peak and your seventh…

Yes. The wind was brutal the morning we left camp: it pushed us upwards like a ski-lift. The risk of frostbite was very high, but we accepted it and the wind made us a lot faster.
I wanted to reach the top, I knew it was his fourteenth 8000m peak and he really wanted it too. I also knew that in all those years I had received a lot from Reinhold and that day I wanted to give all so that he could achieve his aim. I was very happy.
I also need to add that at that time I was very young and I took far more risks. I found it difficult to accept that I had to turn back.

And now?

Now it's different: turning back has become a lot easier and I'm happy about this. So last year it wasn't difficult to turn back 170m below the summit of K2 because conditions were simply too dangerous. I have to admit that I took too many risks when I was young. It was practically a challenge. The reason why I'm here today is that I've been extremely lucky. Only now do I realise how often I pushed myself beyond the limit, for example, during my "criminal" solos on friable, loose faces. At that time, however, I really needed it.
I still search for the "challenge', but I now see it with different eyes and since I have far more experience, I see it earlier and am able to avoid it.

Has your relationship with your climbing partners changed since the beginning?

I've always had an excellent relationship with my partners on the mountain. Even though I've lost touch with many and we've gone our different ways.

At one point you found yourself having to organise expeditions and plan your projects on your own.

I've always gone in search of change. When Messner stopped after his fourteenth 8000m peak I found myself with more time to dedicate to technical difficulties here in the Dolomites or Alps.
Then, all of a sudden, I awoke with the desire to go back to altitude and experience the marvellous culture of Himalayan people.
I had to learn a lot of things in the beginning, but now I've got a team that helps me with the organisation and sorts out many of the logistical problems.

With all this work, is it possible to free your mind for large projects?

This year is extremely intense: I have to hold 80 slideshows; in June I want to climb a 6000m peak with my climbing school; and I would also like to climb K2.
In summer I've got some other obligations with the school, then in autumn I'm back in Nepal, then there are the sponsors to think about, a house to build… it's stressful. The last couple of years have become quite intense.

The wind was brutal the morning we left camp: it pushed us upwards like a ski-lift.

The risk of frostbite was very high, but we accepted it and the wind made us a lot faster.
Kammerlander, Base Camp
Base Camp at Muztagh Ata.
photo Kammerlander archive
I have to admit that I took too many risks when I was young. It was practically a challenge. The reason why I'm here today is that I've been extremely lucky.

Only now do I realise how often I pushed myself beyond the limit, for example, during my "criminal" solos on friable, loose faces. At that time, however, I really needed it.

I still search for the "challenge', but I now see it with different eyes and since I have far more experience, I see it earlier and am able to avoid it.
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