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ExWeb interview - Gerlinde: Everest Supercouloir without oxygen
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Apr 8, 2005 10: 39 EST
Previously published Apr 5, 2005 05: 29 EST

The coolest Everest expedition this season is the Supercouloir attempt in Alpine style and without oxygen, by two guys - and a woman!

Ralf Dujmovits, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, and Hirotaka Takeuchi are just leaving for some serious doubleheader action in the Himalayas. The trio will start by climbing Shisha Pangmaís South Face to complete the he Scott-McInyre route they left undone last year after Ralf was hit by a falling rock.

Six 8000ers without oxygen

Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has six 8,000ers (all without O2), most recently bagging Annapurna last May and G1 last summer. A near miss on Shisha Pangma last spring sent her and the team down Ė stopping her short of getting 7 main mountains, which would have put her at the shared top of the list for living female high-altitude climbers (together with Edurne Pasaban). Only the late Wanda Rutkiewicz has more, with eight 8,000ers.

A Priestís influence

Gerlinde started climbing with the help of a priest in the village where she grew up - he would take her climbing every Sunday after church. Her childhood dream to climb an 8000m-peak came true at the age of 23, when she climbed the fore summit of Broad Peak. This was the start of a long lasting passion which seems to continue for many years still. Although she is often found on difficult routes, climbing in alpine style without oxygen, she chooses her climbs not by difficulties - but by the shape of the mountain!

Uncomplicated Hero

Ralf is of course the favorite partner, and since their 2002 attempt on the North Face of Kanchenjunga also Hiro, "he is a very uncomplicated and nice person and a very strong climber too."

This year, Gerlinde plans to climb Everest in an outstanding style. No female has ever climbed Everest off the standard route, and in Alpine style. And with the exception of one controversial climb, if she succeeds, Edurne will be the only woman alive to have summited Everest without oxygen. ExWeb caught up with the ace female climber shortly before her departure to Himalaya:

ExWeb: Considering your style and the peaks you have climbed, you are perhaps the most accomplished female climber in the world today. Have you ever felt a pressure to brake Wanda Rutkieviczís record?

Gerlinde: I never felt a pressure to brake Wanda`s record of 8000ers. I do my own climbs and I will never get into competition with anybody.

ExWeb: Have you ever met Edurne Pasaban? She always climbs with big teams, what is your take on that?

Gerlinde: I met Edurne for the first time this February at the ISPO tradeshow in Munich. She is a nice woman and her climbing style is her own business.

ExWeb: When did you decide to climb 8000 meter peaks? Was it because you climb with Ralf, or did you have the wish before?

Gerlinde: The big mountains have been on my mind since I was very young. I have trekked since I was 7, and I like every aspect of mountaineering: Ski touring, rock climbing, ice climbing, and the most fascinating - to climb very high mountains.

Itís hard to explain the feeling: I feel free, simply very happy. I still remember when I, at age 16, saw the first slides from Karakorum - from that point I was sure that I would go there to try to climb a big one. The idea stuck in my mind and never left me.

My first Karakorum climb came in 1994, on Broad Peakís fore summit. In 2002 I climbed Manaslu, sharing permit with two Australian and one Italian climber. This is when I first met Ralf. Our first climb together was the next year and went to 7200 meters on Kangchenjunga. Our first 8000 m summit together was last season on Annapurna.

ExWeb: Considering your resume, you are not very well known. How do you feel about publicity?

Gerlinde:Being in the public eye is not easy for me. But I know I have to do it for my sponsors. Sponsors and slide shows is what put food on my table, and that takes some marketing. But the most important thing, and what makes me truly happy, is to climb. If I could do it without self promotion, I would prefer it that way.

ExWeb: Who is your favorite climber? What was your own favorite climb, and why?

Gerlinde: I have no favorite climber. But I enjoy reading about new climbs made by fair means. Iím impressed by Denis Urubko.

I can not tell which my favorite climb is. I have had several. One very impressive to me was Nanga Parbat - the most beautiful Base Camp and a grandiose mountain. I might go back there for another route some dayÖ

But Makalu was great too. A big, stunning mountain. The only one I donít have a good memory of is Annapurna. Until now, itís the only peak I donít want to come back to.

ExWeb: The Superculoir is a tough route - are you scared? What is your biggest fear on this particular climb?

Gerlinde: I have no fear for this climb. I canít wait for the day when we start our attempt on this special, very spectacular route...

ExWeb: You'll be the first lady climber for it, why do you choose unusual climbs?

Gerlinde: I like to climb normal routes too, with more difficult passages on the upper parts. But the most impressive thing is to have a very straight line to the summit. I also prefer quiet climbs without big groups around....

Ace female climber, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner summited Cho Oyu, Makalu, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna and Gasherbrum 1 - thus making 6, 8,000ers. All without oxygen. Gerlinde is considered one of the top female high altitude climbers and was the 6th women to ever reach Anna's summit. She also has Shisha Pangma Central and Broad Peak foresummit.

Image of Gerlinde courtesy of Amical.de
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