“I give the mountain a chance to throw me off.”
— Simon Gietl | LOWA PRO Team
Back in 2018 he was there with Thomas Huber, Rainer Treppte and Yannick Boissenot to attempt the still unclimbed north face of the 7,145-meter-high Latok I. But due to a large risk of avalanches they were able however to take it on – the mountain and especially the north face, which have been a hard nut to crack for many top-tier alpinists, had won out once again.
During their acclimatisation period for the glacier, the four-man team had reached their first camp on Latok III at 5,600 meters – at that time a key step for finding sufficient self-confidence for the real goal, the north face of Latok I. Indeed, after the weather had moved in and the risk became unreasonable, it was not possible to even consider heading up the glacier or even a summit attempt of Latok III. They had to leave empty handed once again.
In summer 2019, Gietl, Huber and Boissenot – this time without Treppte – headed out to Choktoi. In fact, not only had the team changed a little, but also the goal was different. They left behind the glacier and the fascination with the north face of Latok I. Instead, they wanted to attempt its eastern neighbor, Latok III – a good opportunity since the first ascent by the Japanese was now 40 years ago.
Following his regular philosophy, there was only one way to climb a mountain: trad protection with Friends, nuts and hexes, and normal anchors.
Indeed, afterward it didn’t look like that at the start of the expedition. After a solid two weeks everything was ready for the big adventure. “In short, the weather couldn’t have been better, and the anticipation to finally get going was incredible”. said the LOWA Pro Team athlete excited about the start of the expedition. Around midnight, in the glow of head torches, the team started out thoughtfully from the base camp toward the approach – and nobody spoke about the reason for the quiet at this point. “We couldn’t, or we didn’t want to, think about the fact that it was just so extremely warm”, said Simon about the mood. Once they had everything prepared for climbing at the base, they heard the sound: the first large rock fall. Aside from the beams of light from the head torches it was still pitch black, so this loud and unpleasant noise was the only indicator: “Is it perhaps too warm?” That just couldn’t be – or shouldn’t be. Their motivation was too huge to just immediately head back. “We climbed on, but the soft snow reminded us step after step that it was simply too warm. Nevertheless, we made good progress. I was just so happy to be here again – on this mountain that had given me so much and meant so much”, noted Gietl about his reason for ignoring the weather. 100 meters! The team had accomplished so much compared to last year. “As the sun came up, our happiness came to an end. We had to accept that the feeling we had at the start wasn’t incorrect. It was simply too warm and, in such conditions, we had no business here at all”, the alpinist had to admit.
Gietl, Huber and Boissenot had another four weeks’ time they could wait out for another attempt. Not really bad at all. But in the next several days nothing at all changed with the weather that was just too nice. “By nine in the morning, the avalanches and rock falls would start up. That was demonstrating to us over and over that it just made no sense, ” reported Simon Gietl. Even the daily weather updates didn’t offer them any hope. “We hoped for good news, but unfortunately it just got warmer and warmer. It was 0 degrees Celsius even up at 5,800 meters. At the base and in base camp, the temperatures at night stayed at about +8 degrees Celsius”, said Gietl about the crazy situation. They waited three weeks and hoped and hoped. But in fact, in the end the weather just wouldn’t change.
“We had to admit to ourselves that the game was up. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but sometimes you have to do it: You have to accept things that you can’t change. It was really hard to accept the expedition was over. But one thing gave me a lift: We all came home in one piece and can always give it another go sometime in the future!”
— Simon Gietl | LOWA PRO Team
“The Maddox GTX LO is a lightweight and extremely snug shoe that you can wear to do such things as explore the area around your base camp or simply stay in shape.”
- 8 weeks