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ExWeb interview - Carlos Buhler:"The Russians don't owe anyone anything"
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Apr 14, 2005 07: 56 EST
American Carlos Buhler is joining Russians Yuri Koshelenko and Nikolay Totmyanin for an alpine style expedition on Melungtse’s North Face. The team will begin its adventure from Tibet’s isolated Rongshar Valley.

ExplorersWeb had a chat with Carlos right before his departure for Tibet. The challenge may be huge, but Carlos seems calm, and is looking forward to the climb. After all, he’s been there, done that… And he knows enough to focus on what counts.

ExWeb: How did you get involved with this project?

Carlos: I've been discussing the Rongshar Valley with Yuri since last year. He asked me for photos of the N. Face of Gaurishankar, which I had since Mark Price and I made our 1999 climb in the Rongshar Valley (6262 meters/20,545 ft).

ExWeb: Why Melungtse? What attracts you to that mountain?

Carlos: Melungtse is probably the most attractive mountain I've ever seen. It has been climbed to the summit only once that I know of. To climb any route would be incredible for me.

ExWeb: What can you tell us about your previous attempt on that peak?

I attempted Melungtse’s N. Face with Andrew Brash and Mark Price in the fall of 1999. We reached only about 5800 m on the face before a heavy storm cycle forced us to abandon the attempt. It was the same storm that killed two Americans on Shisha Pangma - David Bridges, and Alex Lowe.

ExWeb: What can you tell us about your climbing plans?

Carlos: Along with Yuri and I will be Nikolay Totmyanin. We hope to figure out a good safe line and climb it pure alpine style.

ExWeb: Russian teams usually climb using a “heavy expedition style.” Their methods have raised some controversy lately, notably since they've been awarded the Piolet d'Or for the last two years. What's your point of view on the subject?

Carlos: Ah, yes, there's always lots of folks who like to comment on style from the comfort of home. All I can say is, get out there, climb safe, and come home friends. There isn't anyone else lining up to climb what the Russians did on Jannu. They broke new logistical ground on that kind of high altitude wall. If someone wants to climb it in lighter style, terrific! But the Russians don't owe anyone anything. What about Melungtse? It's been around for a thousand years. I'll bet there won't be anyone else in the valley. I believe that style is everything when evaluating an ascent. But who are we climbing for? The Piolet d'Or judges? They are just climbers like us!

Hey, we will attempt it in a style that assures us satisfaction, safety, and camaraderie! That is what I'm after.

ExWeb: What about returning to the 8000ers? Is there any new possible route you could think of on any of them?

Carlos: I'm always thinking about routes.

The first ascent on Melungtse Main was made in 1992 by Slovenians Andrej Stremfelj and Marco Prezlj through the South-East Face. American Carlos Buhler made the first attempt on the North face in 1999, and reached 5800 m.

Melungtse faces Nepal’s Rolwaling valley to the south, and Rongshar in Tibet to the north. This is a totally isolated area, with no trace of civilization.

Carlos Buhler (Bozeman, Montana) is a major name in American climbing history. He has been climbing since the seventies and is still fully active. He draws from experience gained on thirty-four expeditions all around the world. In 1983, he climbed to the summit of Mt. Everest with the American team that made the first ascent of the Kangshung (East) Face from Tibet. His climbing resume includes: Ama Dablam NE face (1985), Changabang North face (1998), Kangchenjunga North ridge (1988), Cho Oyu Polish route on the W ridge in alpine style, Dhaulagiri, Dorje Lhakpa NE ridge, K2 north ridge, Nanga Parbat and innumerable rock and ice first-line routes.

Yuri Koshelenko has been awarded the Piolet d’Or for the first ascent of Nuptse East, along with Valeri Babanov. Koshelenko was also a member of the Russian team who opened a new line on the center of Everest’s North face last year. Nikolay Totmyanin was awarded the Piolet d’Or last month: He was part of the team that accomplished the first climb on Jannu’s North face. Both climbs also won awards for the Best of ExplorersWeb expeditions in 2004.

Self-portrait of Carlos - camera at arm's length - on Sepu Kangri’s summit (Tibet) in 2002, courtesy of Climbsepu.com
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