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Asia, Nepal, Cho Oyu, South Face Attempt

Cho Oyu, South Face Attempt. Our expedition intended to climb the south face of Cho Oyu (8153 meters, 26,750 feet) which had first been climbed by Koblmüller’s party in 1978. We had four members, the Austrians Wolfgang Nairz, leader, Rudi Mayr and me, and our German friend Reinhard Karl. We also had three Sherpa members and three high-altitude Sherpas. We flew to Lukla on April 12, and established Base Camp at 16,575 feet on April 18. On the following day I suffered from a slight form of pulmonary edema and tried an experimental treatment (nitroglycerin and positive end expiratory pressure). Subsequently my lungs cleared, but I fell into deep unconsciousness due to high-altitude cerebral edema. I was brought down by my friends and evacuated by helicopter to Kathmandu. Due to a subsequent pulmonary embolus I had to return to Europe. Between April 24 and May 6 Karl, Mayr and Nairz established Camp I at 19,350 feet and Camp II at 21,325 feet in the lower part of the face. It was very difficult to find a more-or-less secure route and the climbing involved long pitches of steep and sometimes vertical ice. Progress was slowed by repeated snowfall. The final summit attempt was started on May 17. Nairz and Karl spent the night of May 18 in Camp II, which was located underneath an almost vertical ice face with no séracs. The Sherpas occupied a tent 10 meters apart from my friends. On May 19 at five A.M. an ice avalanche, which originated roughly 2000 feet above the camp, buried the tent of Nairz and Karl. The Sherpas’ tent was spared. The Sherpas started to dig immediately and found Reinhard Karl after 20 minutes. He was dead due to head injuries. Subsequently they found Nairz who was unconscious and had a broken leg. He regained consciousness within an hour and managed to climb down the face with the help of Rudi Mayr and the Sherpas. Reinhard Karl was an outstanding mountaineer (both physically and mentally) and a very close friend. He certainly was the most successful German all-round climber of recent years. He had climbed many of the most difficult routes in the Alps and he had done some big walls in Yosemite and elsewhere. We had climbed Mount Everest together in May 1978 and he had subsequently reached the summit of Gasherbrum II. Just before our start to Cho Oyu he had climbed Cerro Fitz Roy.

Oswald Ölz, Österreichischer Alpenverein