Everest, Gummy Bears, and Honesty in Climbing

After returning from his remarkable no-O2 climb of Everest without personal Sherpa support, David Goettler hurried to post a detailed report.

“I used the fixed ropes,” he pointed out. Such statement may seem obvious, since he never tried to hide his intention to do so. However, according to the German IFMGA guide, there is a good reason to share all the details about how one climbs.

Climbing styles matter

“Honesty has been a core value in mountaineering since its inception, yet it is rapidly becoming the one that is the most neglected,” Goettler said. “Those of us who climb mountains, especially these Himalayan giants, know precisely what makes things easier and which tiny nuances make a huge difference to difficulty, effort, chances of success, and even survival.

“These days, when summiting an 8,000m peak could mean anything from using 8L/min of oxygen from Camp 2 and ‘aviation assistance’ to going alone with nothing but what you can carry, I’d like to encourage our community to embrace honesty and transparency.”

David Goettler atop Everest on Saturday. Photo: David Goettler


He started by being transparent himself — and grateful — about the ropes. Goettler thanked all the rope-fixing teams, from Kami Rita’s to the Ice Doctors. He then made a confession about some gummy bears.

Gummy bear-assisted?

“During my summit push, I used an abandoned tent platform in Camp 3,” Goettler said. “I’d made my own platform during my acclimatization rotation, but it seemed silly to use it when right there was a big deluxe platform standing empty. In Camps 2 and 4, I made my own platforms each time.”

On his summit push, Goettler further admits that he met Robert Kelso in Camp 4, who gave him a handful of Haribo gummy bears.

“Apart from that, I collected all my own snow and ice and melted it for drinking and I carried my own food,” he said.

Goettler in a high camp on Everest. Photo: David Goettler

The climbing elite respond

After his report, Goettler’s Instagram soon filled with appreciative comments, including from Kilian Jornet, with whom Goettler attempted the feat last year. Conrad Anker wrote: “Wonderful to see you achieve your dream in a manner keeping with your integrity.” Emili Harrington, Liv Sansoz, Jimmy Chin, Nepali IFMGA guide Abiral Rai, and others soon added to the applause. Jackson Groves congratulated him for his “rogue style”.

Goettler’s post has become a gallery of elite mountaineering support for not only a meritable climb, but for his honest, clear, and timely reporting.

Comments pile up on Gottler’s Instagram.


British guide Tim Mosedale added: “Transparency and honesty are great especially if you preempt the doubters. Then there are no…[later] justifications for decisions made…And aren’t Haribos great!”

Why is this important?

“This is not about judging style or ethics,” explained Goettler. “Everyone is free to climb how they wish and should be proud of what they accomplish. This is about being honest and openly presenting which choices you made.”

Indeed, we are witnessing a rapid expansion of Himalayan climbing styles, with all kind of tactics and objectives. We also have a vastly increased flow of social media PR and Instagram selfies. At the same time, we receive less reliable, detailed, and timely information about how the climbs themselves are done. High-altitude mountaineering accomplishments often lack witnesses, so transparency and honesty are essential, Goettler believes.

The German climber was not intending to break any record. He just wanted to do Everest his way. This was his third attempt.

Goettler rarely announces his plans in advance but spares no details after he finishes. This time, he has not only succeeded in his goal but done so in a way that the mountaineering community clearly admires.

Angela Benavides is a journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news working with ExplorersWeb.com.

Angela Benavides 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 national and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporates, press manager and communication executive, radio reporter and anchorwoman, etc. Experience in Education: Researcher at Spain’s National University for Distance Learning on the European Commission-funded ECO Learning Project; experience in teaching ELE (Spanish as a Second Language) and transcultural training for expats living in Spain.

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1 month ago

In the mountains honesty is everything.

1 month ago

Good piece and great comments from David.

Those of us who climb mountains, especially these Himalayan giants, know precisely what makes things easier and which tiny nuances make a huge difference to difficulty, effort, chances of success, and even survival.”

I wish more people understood this.

1 month ago

Was Goettler already guiding before as well and with O2 on the peak or was this his first attempt? Think I remember that in previous years he guided and then had his own attempt (or was this Stitzinger?)

1 month ago
Reply to  Stefan

That was Stitzinger. David back then when he wasnt fully pro guided on Gasherbrum 2 always with out oxygen

Lionel Messner
Lionel Messner
1 month ago

Honesty and transparency is important in every aspect of life, I think we can agree all on that. Nobody in the world, except for the tiny fraction of very involved alpinists, cares wether you use supplemental O2 or not or if you turn around 20 m below the summit. But doing it and falsely claiming you didn’t or pulling the race card on anybody who dares to critize your majesty is disgraceful and unfortunately seems to become more and more trendy

antonio gomes
antonio gomes
1 month ago

is not the presence of a Sherpa mandatory to anyone going to the top?

West Hansen
1 month ago

Nice breath of fresh air with, not only the honesty, but the transparency. It’s one thing to respond to a question truthfully (honestly), but to announce such things without being prompted or backed into a corner is honorable – which is truly the goal. In this day of Colin 0’Brady’s and others of his ilk, it’s really nice to have see an example of honorable behavior.