Jost Kobusch knows that his chances of making it to the top are "very slim". There’s also the possibility that he won’t return again. And the likelihood that he will be rescued if something goes terribly wrong, according to the American climber and blogger Alan Arnette are virtually zero.
But the 29-year-old, who originally comes from Borgholzhausen near Bielefeld, is attracted by the very fact that he doesn’t know whether his project is possible. He wants to climb the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, all by himself, i.e. without sherpas, in winter when it is particularly cold and windy, and without oxygen tanks. "Some people say I’m nuts," he says. "But it is a healthy madness. After all, I don’t do it without preparation."
First record at the age of 21
Two years ago, just before Corona, he tried it for the first time – and made it to 7350 meters, by his own account. Now he’s venturing a second attempt – and hopes to reach 8000 meters and then eventually the 8848.8-meter peak.
According to the expedition archive "Himalayan Database", only one Sherpa has ever made it to the top in winter without oxygen, but not alone. Ang Rita Sherpa, who died in 2020, was traveling with a group of Korean climbers in the winter of 1987/88. With one of them he made it to the summit, but this one had artificial oxygen with him.
Kobusch has already broken records. At the age of 21, he was the world’s youngest mountaineer to climb the 6800-meter-high Ama Dablam in the Himalayas alone, as a look at the expedition archive "Himalayan Database" shows. And at 25, he became the first person ever to climb the roughly 7300-meter Nangpai Gosum II, for which he was nominated for the mountaineering Oscar, the Piolet d'Or.
"… In the process, I do not feel any emotion at all"
Despite the many dangers on the mountains, Kobusch often only thinks about death on the way there – when he’s on his way to them in rickety old planes. "I wonder if I see smoke on the engine," he says. "But then I also think I’ve had a good life and have no regrets, and if it had been that, it would have been fine."He knows that his family and his girlfriend are worried about him, he says. "But I push such thoughts aside and focus on the goal. It’s a very meditative experience and I don’t feel any emotions at all. But in some quiet moments I miss it."
He didn’t make it to the top of Everest in winter two years ago. "The route was harder than I thought, and part of it had suddenly collapsed," he says. "And the wind was so strong that it damaged my tent." In addition, he says, he suffered a foot strain and had stomach problems throughout the expedition. And then, he says, the winter at the end of February 2020 was also already over.
Preparations for the second attempt
Kobusch chose a rarely traveled route to the top and took a long time to explore it because, as he says, nothing could be seen of it anymore. He was always on the move for a few days and then recovered in a tent at base camp, where a cook and a kitchen assistant are waiting. At the most difficult places he had attached a fixed rope, in order to be able to descend there faster.
Then came the return to Germany, he took it a little easier at first. Because he was on the road for months at over 5000 meters, where the body breaks down a lot of muscle mass, as he says. He underwent physiotherapy so that his foot could recover. "I enjoyed the daily routine of being able to sleep in my own bed and take hot showers," he says. "I loved the warmth of home. And when my girlfriend wanted to camp, I didn’t want to do it."
But soon he began his preparation for the second Everest winter attempt. This time more specific, as he says. "For example, I climbed the mountain with weights in my backpack. Before, I just did a lot of basic endurance." The approximately 15 kilos in his backpack simulated his luggage weight on Everest. There, for example, he carries a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, dry food, stove, sunscreen, spare gloves, music and a satellite phone.
"I live in the moment"
His training schedule also included cycling, climbing and weight training. In addition, this time he moved to train with his girlfriend, an ultra-trail runner, in the French ski resort of Chamonix, at the foot of the highest mountain in the Alps, Mont Blanc. At 4810 meters, this is about half the height of Mount Everest.
In the meantime, Kobusch is back in the Himalayas again. In the coming weeks, he plans to acclimatize to altitude by climbing a six-thousand-meter peak. Then between the 22. December and the end of February to make repeated attempts to the top. In between, he wants to rest every few days in a village eight kilometers from the route entrance. He wants to do without a cook right at Everest base camp this time to make the project a bit more minimalist.
Kobusch says he lives in the moment. He does not yet have any goals for the time after the long-term project of climbing Winter Everest. He does not want to. "If you have too many targets, they will be lost." The next few years he wants to keep trying – in a two-year rhythm. He wants to continue to adapt his training and get better. Whether giving up would also be an option for him? "If at some point, despite the best preparation and the best possible weather, I see that it does not work out. But I believe it is possible. Otherwise I would not try. Everything is impossible until someone makes it."
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