David Goettler: ‘We Must be Patient’

Today, David Goettler spoke to ExplorersWeb about his attempt with Herve Barmasse to climb Dhaulagiri in winter and alpine style. In the end, high winds at altitude gave them no chance to even set foot on the mountain.

Climbers on the rocky ground of the French pass, Dhaulagiri in background.

Herve Barmasse (in red) and David Goettler (in yellow), with Dhaulagiri in the background.


Part of the game

“With goals like this, [failure is] part of the game,” Goettler said. “I believe more than ever that it’s possible to climb in superlight alpine style and a two-person team in winter. The conditions were absolutely perfect, except for the wind.”

He says that he is willing to try again, and that climbing an 8,000’er at the coldest time of year, in that style, requires patience. “Not the patience of base camp,” he explained, “but the patience required over years to hit that elusive sweet spot of weather and conditions.”

He can’t say whether he’d prefer to return to Dhaulagiri or to attempt their goal from the previous winter: the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat. Nanga Parbat’s Schell route is long and difficult but sunny and safer in winter.

“Each has its pros and cons,” Goettler said. “But both seem good for a winter attempt in the style we like.”

Two tents shining with inner light in the night, with Dhaulagiri's "little Eiger" under the moonlight behind.

The pair’s tiny base camp at night. Photo: David Goettler


Few imitators

Despite the lack of results these last two winters, Goettler and Barmasse’s expeditions attracted the admiration of the mountaineering community, thanks to their bold goals and uncompromising style. Yet few seem willing to follow in their footsteps. The other two expeditions this winter were traditional. They included a strong team of Sherpa guides on oxygen.

“Of course, [summit] chances don’t increase with a style like ours,” Goettler admitted. “Extra O2 lets you tolerate higher winds and colder temperatures.”

He added: “I am on the same page as Adam Bielecki that if part of your team has oxygen, it makes a huge difference in your decisions on the mountain.”

Goettler has has never used supplementary oxygen. On Everest last spring, despite the crowds and altitude, he summited without O2. It was his third attempt.

tiny shillouette of Herve Barmasse on a huge glacier terrain, glittering white.

David Goettler, above, and Herve Barmasse were completely alone on Dhaulagiri. Photo: Herve Barmasse


Like Bielecki, Goettler has become tolerant about using helicopters to fly into Base Camp.

“I’ve changed my opinion [about this] in recent years,” he admitted. Among other arguments on its behalf, he notes that taking a helo is cheaper than having a trekking caravan carry everything to Base Camp.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.