THE GERMAN-FRENCH MOUNT EVEREST EXPEDITION, 1978
DR K. M. HERRLIGKOFFER
THE team consisted of Dr Karl Herrligkoffer (Leader), P. Mazeaud, Sigi Hupfauer, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Helmut Daum, Jorg F. Daum, Hans Engl, Gunther Harter, Hubert Hillmaier, Hans Kirchberger, Wilhelm Klimek, Bernd Kullmann, Josef Mack, Georg Ritter, Marianne and Josef Walter, Robert Allenbach (Switzerland), Martin Rink, Franz Seiler and Hubert Wehrs. Dr Horst Laube, second expedition doctor, cameraman Horst Schumann and Doris Kustermann, base camp manager.
As a result of financial trouble for the first time on this expedition I required extra duties by each mountaineer. Each one who wanted to qualify for the summit had to carry at least 25 kg from the Base Camp to Camp 2. This meant that everyone- including the women-had to carry up rucksacks in several ascents through the icefall and later between Camp 1 and the acclimatization Camp 2-with a load of at least 15 kg but mostly 20 kg to an altitude of 6450 m. This certainly was hard work for everyone, but by doing so all the necessary equipment was quickly carried up to the high camps and it also led to an extremely good acclimatization. The Sherpas were most impressed with this load transport carried out by the climbers and they were inspired by their eagerness.
While the high camps were erected the weather conditions were changeable. But the period during September could be used to build up the high camps completely in order to be ready for the attack of the summit early in October. An absolute bad weather period, a forerunner of the winter, reached us on 4 and 5 October. The masses of fresh fallen snow we confronted were enormous, and it took quite some time until the tents were shovelled free, repaired and the junction paths between the high camps reopened again. During the following days a vast high-altitude storm set in which prevented the further push on to the South Col, but on the other hand blew off the snow from the faces and ridges and pressed it together in the Western Cwm, and after the storm was over ideal conditions turned up.
After 12 October the weather was good but the wind still didn't drop. Sepp Mack and Hans Engl were to ascend from Camp 2 to the South Col on the next day. As the general weather conditions got better and the weather forecast said that before the beginning of the winter we could expect four good days with wind force up to 40 knots, I set my hopes on it and the two strongest members of the expedition should get all possible support for their ascent.
On the afternoon of 13 October a large group marched to the South Col. Our 2-man-team joined Mazeaud and his two companions Diemberger and Hillmaier. The weather was good but a strong wind was blowing.
Towards the morning the wind dropped and around 8 o'clock it was almost calm. The first two to get up were Engl and Mack. Engl wanted to climb to the top without artificial oxygen and for Sepp Mack that meant that he alone had to break the path. For this reason he took three oxygen-bottles and started off.
Hillmaier who started one hour later together with Mazeaud and Diemberger, separated when the latter two returned to Camp 4. After about 7 hours he caught up with the leading Sepp Mack on the Hillary Step. There he was able to climb the 20 m high precipice thanks to his 40 m long rope, belayed by Mack. He tied his rope and all the following 15 members had the benefit of it.
At quarter past four p.m. Sepp Mack was the first to reach the highest point on earth. Half an hour later Hillmaier reached the summit, and finally at 5 p.m. the happy Everest conqueror Hans Engl stood on top of the ridge.
The next day, 15 October, brought a big summit feast for the French group. Pierre Mazeaud (40), the Austrian cameraman Diemberger and also the two Frenchmen Dr Nicola Jaeger and Jean Afanassieff started at 4 o'clock in the morning. At 1.15 p.m. the two young Frenchmen were the first to reach the summit. One and a half hours later the two lucky ones on the top were Mazeaud and Diemberger.
On 16 October five more men and one woman were on their way to the summit of Everest. After about eight hours they reached their destination. They were : Sigi Hupfauer, the Swiss mountaineer Robert Allenbach, Willi Klimek and the Polish girl Wanda Rutkiewicz, who was the third woman and first European female mountaineer to set foot on the top of Everest.
Together with this group Sherpa Mingma, Ang Dorje-both without artificial oxygen-and Ang Kami reached the summit.
On 17 October, a nice but stormy day, the two last German members climbed to the top of Everest. They were : Bernd Kullman who in the beginning wanted to go solo, and Georg Ritter as number 16. He made the ascent from Base Camp to the top in three days.
When we evacuated our Base Camp and marched towards home we were all very grateful for the good luck, and that none of our comrades became seriously ill, but above all that none of our friends had to be left behind on the mountain.
At the age of 46, this was the fourth eight-thousand metre peak climbed by K. Diemberger and the second within the last six months! 1957 : Broad Peak, 1st ascent, 1960 : Dhaulagiri I, 1st ascent, 1978 : (May) Makalu (October) Everest |.