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Lupghar Sar West, the obvious pyramid on the left. On the right an unnamed peak
Photo by Hansjörg Auer
Hansjörg Auer after the first ascent of the North Face of Gimmigela East (7005m), Nepal (8-10/11/2016)
Photo by Elias Holzknecht
Hansjörg Auerand the Oetztal traverse on 12-13 February 2014
Photo by Hansjörg Auer
Hansjörg Auer free solo climbing on Grande Muro al Sass dla Crusc on 8 August 2016
Photo by Matteo ​Mocellin

Hansjörg Auer to attempt Lupghar Sar West solo

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Interview with Austrian mountaineer Hansjörg Auer on the eve of his departure for Lupghar Sar West, a 7181m high mountain in the Karakorum, Pakistan which he plans to climb solo.

On 15 June Hansjörg Auer will embark on what he considers the "next step” in his mountaineering and climbing activity, namely a trip to Pakistan’s Karakorum mountain range where he will attempt to ascend the 7181 meter high Lupghar Sar West. What makes this project immediately stand out from all his previous expeditions - and from most other major expeditions for that matter - is that the 34-year-old from the Ötztal will be on his own. Apart from a cook and a few porters, Auer will not be able to rely on anyone but himself when he attempts to climb the West Face solo.

Hansjörg: Lupghar Sar West. What can you tell us about this mountain and why did you chose this as you next - let's admit it, huge - objective?
Lupghar Sar is a mountain in Hunza - Pakistan. Ever since I stood on Kunyang Chhish East in 2013 with my brother Matthias and Simon Anthamatten I’ve always wanted to come back to this place. There are countless futuristic projects still to do here, the area is not crowded at all and I like the wild, narrow valleys where the mountains rise up for 1000 of meters right next to the Karakorum Highway.

Such as the beautiful pyramid Lupghar Sar.
Yes. Lupghar Sar (7181m) actually has three distinct summits, all nearly equally high and my goal is Lupghar Sar West (ca. 7100m), first ascended by an German expedition back in 1979 led by Hans Gloggner. In 1986 two Spanish climbers explored an approach up the Baltbar Glacier and discovered that the mountain offers a magnificent line from that side, the place I’m planning to go. The last activity I know of was in summer 2000 by some French mountaineers, but I couldn’t find any concrete details. In Pakistan from time to time there are expeditions climbing under the radar and this makes research sometimes a bit more difficult.

What precisely would you like to climb?
I will attempt the West Face of Lupghar Sar West, solo. I’ve played with this idea for a few years, but the right moment never arrived. Until now.

Hansjörg, going alone is a entirely different ballgame. Surely you could find a partner if you wanted to…
My original idea this summer was to return to Hunza with my good friend Alex Blümel, but unfortunately he had some health problems this spring and can’t go. So this suddenly opened the door to attempt Lupghar Sar on my own. It took me some time to think about it, to put everything in the right place, and I waited a few days as my „solo-mindset" started to grow. And yes, from one day to the next, as I continued training at home, it felt more and more like the right decision. Let’s see if this conviction will be still the same when standing below the mountain. For me this is a huge question mark.

With your previous expeditions as a basis for comparison, what are the main differences with going solo, right from home?
For me it will be the next step to see if I can transport all my solo climbing experience in the Alps to high altitude. Furthermore, I believe there is a big difference between setting off alone from home and soloing a mountain, to going on an expedition with others and then for some reason soloing a mountain, because a partner is unwell, whatever. Sometimes 80% of the time during an expedition you’re not actually climbing. When you have a team of friends with you, it’s easier to deal with that time off, which is mostly characterized by decisions making every day. But now I won’t be able to count on my friends to help me in the decision making, and as I see it this lends the project a very special taste. If I’m honest and ask myself why, then this is a taste I’m always looking for somehow.

So how alone will you really be?
I’ll have a cook and another guy, original raised in Karimabad and a handful of porters helping me bringing up the loads to Basecamp. So during the expedition there will only be three guys at the remote Basecamp, and at present no one knows what conditions will be like there. As always I’ll have my sat-phone for communication from Basecamp, if I have the time I’ll provide the occasional updates. But at present there are simply too many question marks to say more.

Hansjörg, from your free solo of the Fish route on Marmolada in the Dolomites to your first ascents in the Greater ranges such as Gimmigela East and the aforementioned Kunyang Chhish East, you know better than most that climbing mountains has huge risks involved. Surely going alone takes things to a completely different level. Why do it?
I will definitely enjoy the undreamt intensity of life during this project, and it is this that constantly drives me to set off in search of adventure. And being on my own, I will feel even more exposed with regard to the climbing difficulties, weather and the mountain itself. I’m intrigued to find out if I’ll have lot’s of fun or if I’m going to get scared and come back after three weeks. It’s going to be a completely new experience.

Links: FB Hansjörg Auer, Instagram Hansjörg Auer,  www.hansjoerg-auer.atLa Sportiva, The North Face, Intermatica

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