Langtang Lirung (7,227m), Solo Attempt and Tragedy

Asia, Nepal, Langtang Himal
Author: Elizabeth Hawley, Lindsay Griffin. Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 2010.

No one knows what caused the death of Tomaz Humar on the south face of Langtang Lirung. On November 7 the 40-year-old Slovenian started up a wide couloir leading leftward and then diagonally up toward the south ridge. He bivouacked on the ridge at 6,100m. The forecast predicted strong winds. On the 9th he radioed to his base camp cook, “I’m here at 6,300m and not possible. I come down.” Later that day he spoke again to his cook, who understood Humar to say that he had broken his leg and back. Before this second call he had talked with his girlfriend in Slovenia by satellite phone, saying, “I’ve had an accident. I’m dying.” Finally, the next morning, he spoke once more to the cook and simply said, “This is my last call.” He then either switched off the radio or the connection was lost. He was not heard from again.

The alarm was sounded but helicopter searches failed to locate Humar, as did a strong Sherpa team, who fixed ropes toward the point Humar had described as his location (first arriving on the south ridge at a point higher than Humar reported in his first radio message). Contacts in Slovenia mustered the services of the Air Zermatt Rescue, members of which arrived in Kathmandu on the 13th. The following day the Swiss flew with a Nepalese helicopter to Langtang, and co-pilot Robert Andenmatten located Humar at ca 5,600m on the southwest face, lower and much farther left than expected, in an area of steep rocky terrain. Zermatt guide Simon Anthamatten was lowered on a 25m static line and prepared Humar’s body for evacuation. It was airlifted from the mountain and brought to base camp, literally frozen stiff.

Anthamatten thinks that Humar climbed an easy couloir on the left side of the southeast face, then moved onto the southwest face, continuing up below the crest of the south ridge. A camera in his pocket showed an extremely steep wide couloir, looking both up and down. Due to the frozen condition of his body, it was impossible to tell whether he had broken any bones, and the Nepalese doctors who perform autopsies said they were incapable of examining such a body. His clothing, camera, and other gadgets in his pockets were undamaged. His Slovenian doctor and good friend, Anda Perdan, who had come to Nepal with the Swiss, speculated that he had managed to descend several hundred meters to the point where he was found and then froze to death, though this seems less plausible given the nature of the terrain. Humar’s body was cremated in Kathmandu and his ashes scattered over the Langtang Lirung base camp site.

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