Jost Kobusch: Still Focused on Winter Everest

A man with a mission: soloing Everest in winter. Photo: Daniel Hug

With all eyes fixated on winter K2, a young climber is methodically preparing to return to Everest next December for a no-O2, solo attempt via the West Ridge and the Hornbein Couloir.

On his first try last year, 27-year-old Jost Kobusch endured a lot of skepticism. He wouldn’t get past Base Camp, some said. Others even doubted that he would return alive. Though ultimately unsuccessful, he soloed some remarkable pitches and returned home safely despite a couple of tense moments.

Although he kept the idea of summiting in his back pocket, those initial weeks were primarily a shakedown expedition. “Last year was about testing the micro-climate and finding the route,” Kobusch explained during a Skype chat with ExplorersWeb.

Next year will mark another phrase on this long-term project. “The goal will be to reach 8,000m safely, scout the Hornbein Couloir and check the options. Okay, there could be a chance for the summit, but it’s a very small one.”

This year’s strict lockdown in France has forced Kobusch to abandon his usual training grounds in Chamonix. Currently at his parents’ home in Germany, he is climbing local crags and building up strength and endurance for November 2021, when he’ll return to winter Everest.

Focused on Everest

While most high-altitude climbers cannot wait to return to the Himalaya, Kobusch does not intend to go there before next fall. “I have decided to dedicate all my energy to prepare [for winter Everest] and I don’t want to get lost in many little adventures on the way,” he says. “I imagine myself like a basketball player practicing the exact drills he needs to improve whatever he is not good at, so that when the match comes -– in my case, Everest — I am ready.”

Kobusch training in Chamonix some weeks ago, before the latest lockdown.

No longer the crazy rookie

Expectations about his performance and the audience’s perception will also be different from the first time that he announced his ambitious goal. Back then, some considered him a crazy kid gambling with his life, while others saw an overenthusiastic rookie.

“It was funny because there was quite a lot of media attention last year, and some people even thought it was a PR stunt, but when I finished, there was complete silence,” Kobusch recalled. Meanwhile, he returned alive after reaching the highest altitude of any expedition that winter, completely alone.

Photo: Daniel Hug

“It really felt like a first ascent,” he said. “Sure, the West Ridge had been climbed before, but you could hardly see any trace of previous expeditions. A couple of times, I found a piton hammered into the rock or a ragged piece of rope, but they were not even on the route I was following.”

In this era of 3D, high-resolution Everest panoramas, Kobusch’s research for that first endeavor was charmingly old-fashioned. His main source of information was a documentary from the 1970s about the first American expedition. “What I saw was totally different from those images,” he said.

Focused on his own project, Kobusch is barely aware of the buzz around winter K2. “That sounds like something that could actually work, if the team is strong enough and clients willing to help…on a traditional-style expedition,” he said.

Jost Kobusch rock climbing.

“The commercialization of alpinism consists of selling extraordinary first ascents to ordinary people. I don’t doubt some will be skilled and experienced, but it’s hard to believe that in such a large group, all of them are.”

“Anyway,” he adds, “I think is great that everybody is going for K2, so I can have Everest to myself and feel free there.”

Kobusch chatting with ExplorersWeb writer Angela Benavides.

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Stephen Ferguson
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Watching on the live tracker last year was intense to say the least! It must be noted however…that despite an ankle injury, rock fall, avalanche and very unpredictable weather….Jost reached well over 7000m on the shoulder and it was time more than inexperience that stopped him going further. Alex T’s TEAM could not match him that year in the south col and he must be taken seriously! Good luck Jost!