Interview with Gerfried Goschl: Team Leader of the Gasherbrum 1 winter expedition

While the Russians will be attempting the first successful ascent of the Savage K-2, another team of highly ambitious and renowned climbers will be locked in a fierce battle to summit Gasherbrum 1, the 11th highest mountain in the world. This will also be the first successful attempt of the dreaded peak in case the team is able to reach the peak in the dead of winters. Gerfried Goschl, one of the accomplished mountaineers in the world, will be leading the team including Darek  Zaluski, Nisar Hussain, Cedric Hahlen, Alex Txikon and Carlos Suarez and will be treading on a new route on the 8,080 metre peak.  Here is the details of the latest interview with the team leader Goschl who confided the latest intricate details of the mission.

Question:  Are you going for the same line you tried last year?
Goschl:  Yes, the same route we attempted last winter on the steep south face of G1. I’ve been checking this (rather logical) line for eight years and know it by heart by now. I’m absolutely positive that this is the most direct route between BC and summit.

Question:  What does it look like, in terms of difficulty?

It’s quite technical and demanding up to 6800 meters. Upon reaching a ridge, we’ll have to down climb some meters, but not too much. The route actually gets easier in the upper sections. Looking down on it from the G1 summit this summer, it was exactly like I had imagined. I’m so looking forward to be back again soon on this fantastic face!

Question:  What are your plans for the descent?

Goschl:  Well, some of us are planning to traverse down to the north side of the mountain, and descend via the normal route – thus achieving a first ascent+traverse.

Question:  The “ABC Team” has doubled up. Did you headhunt for the new members or did they come to you?

Goschl:  In fact last winter showed us that the job needed on such a steep face was too exhausting for only three climbers. After Louis quit the upcoming attempt, Alex and I looked for the right people to share our project.

Question:  Will  you be working as one single team under your leadership, or do you have different objectives within the expedition? How will you share the work?

Goschl:  We will all work as one team on the south face. I plan to divide the work in two small groups fixing the route up to 6800 meters as fast as possible. We all will climb together from there, especially on the summit push.

Question:  The new additions are Polish Darek Zaluski, Spanish Carlos Suarez, Nisar Hussain from Pakistan and Swiss Cedric Hahlen. Tell us more about them?

Goschl:  Well, Darek has got five 8000ers – latest, K2 north pillar this summer. He is also a professional cameraman and, typically for that generation of Polish mountaineers, highly experienced in winter climbing. Darek Carlos is well known in Spain for doing “crazy” things such as bold climb+BASE jumps. He is a strong technical climber and also has experience from a 8000er-summit (Cho Oyu).

is our man, especially to film a documentary about the climb.

Since we first knew each other in 2003 Nisar has been a close friend of mine. He has been personal HAP (high altitude porter) for my team members on Nanga Parbat, G2 and K2. Nisar climbed all 8000ers in Pakistan several times, always without artificial oxygen, and he set a new record last summer as the first to summit Pakistan 8000ers ten times (1xK2, 1xNP, 1xBP, 4xG2, 3xG1). No doubt he is the strongest climber in Pakistan. Of course he climbs for money (as do all HAPs) most of the time but it’s also his passion.  This winter for the first time Nissar will join a team not because of salary but because he wants to be part of the project. He knows G1 very, very well! Down the road we’ll try to bring him  as member in our Nepal expeditions since it’s his biggest dream. Cedric is an ambitious young mountain guide from Switzerland who already climbed K2, Kanch, BP foresummit and Gasherbrum II East (7772m, new route from Chinese  side). What else would he need to be on the team?

Question:  Which lessons from last winter will you apply this year?

Goschl:  We now know that we need the best possible gear to fix the route. For instance, dealing with ice hard as rock last year made us bring high quality ice screws this time. An earlier start will allow more time before the end of the winter. Finally, we’re now six instead of three, which hopefully will result in faster work on the lower part of the route. 

Again we trust our friend and agent Muhammad Ali and his agency Adventure Pakistan for  the logistics. I must say he did a great job for us the entire year. Our BC is already set up, fully supplied and waiting!

 Question:  You mentioned a documentary on the climb. Does that mean more cool video files such as the ones you uploaded last year?

Goschl:  The funds from an Austrian TV network producing a documentary about the project actually allowed us to include Darek in the expedition. But of course you’ll still get interesting video clips!

Question:  There are 5 teams scheduled this winter on three Pakistan 8000ers. Does this signal increased interest in winter Himalaya, and why is that do you think?

Goschl:  For a small group of climbers, a winter climb provides the hardest conditions, but also fascinating moments and lots of fun. I am sure that all 8000ers will be climbed in winter ten years from now. So, if you wanna be part of history you better join now! That’s what I’m doing.

Question:  This is your second winter attempt on a summit you bagged this summer – won’t that affect your motivation?

Goschl:  Right after the winter expedition I decided to climb G1 in summer with three goals in mind: To acclimate for K2; to get to know intimately every step to the GI summit on the normal route on the north side; and to take a good lookat our planned winter route down the south face. (It also proved a great adventure with good friends and a big success. I wanted to prepare for the really “mad” upcoming winter project. I want to climb G1 in winter, via a new route and make the first traverse of any 8000er in winter (south to north). Nobody has had such an incredible idea before. For me, personally, this project is so incredibly interesting in itself, that I really don’t care if I’ve been on the summit before. Moreover, to have summited already gives me a psychological advantage when I stand up there in winter. Knowing the route down to the north side might help to take such an overwhelmingly hard step.

My view is that if you don’t really believe in your project, in the possibility of succeeding on it –you don’t go for the same 8000er three times a year, least of all in winter!

Gerfried Göschl (39) lives in Liezen, Austria with his wife and two daughters. He initiated, organized and led several big expeditions for the Austrian Alpine Club (OeAV). His first 8000er summits were Cho Oyu (2002) and GII (2003). In  2005 he summited Shisha Pangma’s mai
n summit and Everest without O2 within a month. In 2007 he attempted a Broad Peak/K2 double header – he summited Broad, but failed to reach K2’s top due to deep snow and high risk of  avalanche.In 2009 Gerfried led a team up a new variation line on Nanga Parbat, but suffered the loss of mate Wolfgang Koblinger.

Through autumn 2010, he collected more than €20,000 for his family’s relief organization in Pakistan’s Northern areas near Besham, together with his father Rainer Göschl and climbing mates Günther Unterberger, Hans Goger and brother Rainer Wolfgang Göschl (they collaborate through charity lectures). With the donations they provided the first crucial help to the local flood victims.  2011 was a busy year for Gerfried who, after the winter attempt, ended up summiting GI in
summer; then he attempted again K2. He is currently preparing for his second attempt on winter GII via a new route, leading an international team.