Interview with Jost Kobusch: Return to Winter Everest

Everest Winter 8000ers
Jost Kobusch. Photo: Jost Kobusch

Jost Kobusch raised eyebrows in 2019 when he announced his three-stage plan to climb Everest alone in winter via the West Ridge.

The brash young German successfully negotiated the hanging glacier leading to Lo Lha, a pass just north of the Western Cwm. He then continued up the ridge as far as 7,400m. It earned him thousands of followers on social media. Everybody liked the (then) 27-year-old, soft-spoken lad, who said that he climbed for himself and not for records. Everybody, that is, except maybe Reinhold Messner. More on that later.

Now 29, Kobusch flies this week to Nepal for the second round of his mega-project. Before leaving, he discussed the details with ExplorersWeb from his current home in Chamonix.

“My goal this time is to reach 8,000m, which is more or less the base of the Hornbein Couloir,” he said. “There, I’ll check the winter conditions on those upper sections. It’s something that no one knows because no one has been there before in winter. I’ll gather all the info I can, so when I come back I can fine-tune my training even more and maybe develop some gear.”

Overall, he says, his expectations for this second phase are to learn as much as possible. Then on the third try, he will go for it.

First ascents to acclimatize

He wants to set foot on the Khumbu Glacier on December 22, right at the beginning of calendar winter. Before that, he will acclimatize by summiting some virgin 6,000m peaks with a partner. He gave no details about the specific climbs.

“The idea is to enjoy the acclimatization as much as possible,” he said. “I am also so excited to be on an expedition after the long COVID break!”

Yet unlike most, the pandemic did not affect his climbing much. Rather, he said, “it was a great chance to focus on my daily training. I must admit I had a really good time! As a professional athlete, I was able to climb and train in the Chamonix Valley without restrictions.”

He points out that he had always planned his second Everest phase for this year. He has focused on training in the kind of terrain and steepness he will find on Everest.

While training, Jost Kobusch mimics some of what he’ll have to do on Everest. He also did uphill-only sessions by paragliding back down from the summit. Photo: Jost Kobusch

Lessons learned

His other significant changes concern Base Camp and tactics. This time, Kobusch will not set up a standard base camp, just a small Advanced Base Camp tent at the base of the route.

“I will stay in Lobuche village and take a more minimalistic, pure approach to the mountain,” he said. “I am also adjusting some gear to go lighter and faster.”

On his first expedition, he eventually found the best climbing line to the Lho La. “But it was more technical than I had expected,” he said. “This time, I am bringing proper static ropes to fix the most difficult sections.

“I will only bring two ropes, 130m in total, and only fix small passages. But I want those ropes to be fully reliable. I don’t want to use those nylon ropes often found on big mountains, the kind you’d use as a swing for the kids.”

On the mountain, he will be fully alone. His expedition cook, also the person on the other end of the radio, will remain in Lobuche. Kobusch will also stay in touch with his team in Germany.

Jost Kobusch heads alone toward Lho La on Everest, winter 2019. Photo: @terragraphy

A heavy snow winter?

As this fall has been quite snowy in the Himalaya, we asked Kobusch what that might mean for winter.

“Well, a mountain is not static, it’s dynamic, it changes constantly,” he says. “But all the expeditions currently reporting loads of snow are performing in fall conditions. I will be there in winter, which…is drier and windier. But if I found more snow than in 2019, it would be actually great, because everything was hard ice around me last time.”

Kobusch’s climbs attract big audiences. Winter, Everest, and solo make an irresistible trifecta. That has brought him both supporters and critics, some quite famous.

Messner’s take

“Alpinism is like art, you want to provoke, to inspire, to make people react somehow,” says Kobusch. “I do this project only for myself, out of curiosity and because it gives meaning to my life. I don’t even know whether it’s possible [to succeed]…At the same time, I realize that I am climbing a meaningless stone hill. I am not producing anything.

“Maybe what I do is not the norm. I am receiving a lot of criticism from people like Reinhold Messner, but I think you are only criticized if you don’t do whatever everybody else does. To me, that means that you’re doing something right.”

The 29-year-old Kobusch on a climb some weeks ago. Photo: Jost Kobusch

He is referring to Messner’s interview in Alpin.de, when the great South Tyrolean tagged Kobusch as the “world champion of advertising,” and a “mountaineering wannabe”.

Kobusch “announced his goals before actually achieving them and even he admitted there was only a one percent chance he would make it,” said Messner. “If I thought I had a one-percent chance to achieve a goal, I wouldn’t even bother flying to Nepal.” Then Messner colorfully compared him to sport climbers “jumping on a wall in ape-behavior patterns”.

Kobusch prefers to take it as a compliment. “Maybe it’s the way Messner shows his love,” he jokes. “If he has taken the effort to check out my project and to criticize it, it means I’ve caught his attention. Moreover, it fuels me to go and prove the critics wrong.”

+2

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!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Messner was a fantastic climber, no doubts about it. But where it actually matters (being a decent human being), he sounds like a jerk

+4
Dave @ Accidental FIRE

Oh the ego is a strong thing. Too bad Messner is letting his show here. I wish this kid good luck

+2
Benny Smith
Benny Smith
1 month ago

I wish Jost good luck for his project. IMHO be never over-announced any of his projects, more like realistically stated the estimated (minimal) chances of success. Messner reliably mimics the typical grumpy old mountain guy, priceless! And yet he will praise Jost’s achievement, if he should eventually succeed.

+1
OldHikerDude
OldHikerDude
1 month ago

Good ole’ Reinhold. I remember when Gerlinde Kaltenbruner completed the 14 8,000’ers without oxygen, her referred to her as a “tourist”. I wasn’t sure if it was old fashioned Male chauvinism or he was just being an asshole, or both. He’s a hard one to figure out. Since Messner enjoys the fact that he is the only climber to officially summit Everest solo without O2, he might be worried that Jost is well on his way to change all of that. I know that I’ll be routing for Jost. He is skilled, motivated, and very capable. He has shown that… Read more »

jams
jams
1 month ago
Reply to  OldHikerDude

Unlike you Messner can smell bullshit a mile off. West ridge in winter solo is a fantasy and is effectively impossible.

0
OldHikerDude
OldHikerDude
1 month ago
Reply to  jams

I can remember when NE Ridge, Norton Couloir, solo, during the Monsoon was deemed “effectively impossible”.

+1
Last edited 1 month ago by OldHikerDude
Saltyjohnny
Saltyjohnny
1 month ago
Reply to  OldHikerDude

I wish him good luck. But like Messner I’m not sure kobush has any chance realizing this ascent. He is definitely not as skilled and experiment as Loretan or Messner and I’m agree with him when he say this is just social media bullshit. I don’t know who is sponsoring him for this fantasy but this is a waist.

0
Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Surely it is attempting something impossible that advances exploration?!

People moan at all the tourist mountaineers who simply follow fixed lines to become the 5000th person on the summit. And now Messner moans because someone is attempting something really hard that has never been done before?! Didn’t he spend his life attempting things that everyone else thought impossible?!
50 years ago people would have said Honnold and Steck were wasting their time attempting the things that they eventually achieved.

Kudos to Jost for trying to push the boundaries of what is possible for the next generation.

+2
Thorsten
Thorsten
1 month ago

I wonder if Messner forgot how he and Habeler were fools for the whole world, including all alpinists, when they wanted to climb Everest without O2 in 78. Many have declared them dead in advance and haven’t even attributed a 1% chance to them.

+2
Sheeny
Sheeny
20 days ago

All is know is Jost is a champ and trying his best so what if he wants to become famous. And I’m not saying he does. Messner himself has said he used to chase fame and fortune when he was younger.

0
Last edited 20 days ago by Sheeny
×