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|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.
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.
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.
|Hans Kammerlander on K2.
photo Kammerlander archive
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Base Camp at Muztagh Ata.
photo Kammerlander archive