Hermann Buhl, the first person to summit of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world
Hermann Buhl

Hermann Buhl was the first person to successfully climb Nanga Parbat, which is the ninth-highest peak in the world. They were successful. His ascent to the top occurred on July 3, 1953. To this day, this is the only instance in which an individual climbing alone has ever achieved the feat of reaching an 8,000-meter peak. Karl Herrligkoffer, who went on to lead a lengthy series of attempts to climb eight thousanders in the Himalayas and Karakoram, was the expedition’s leader. He was a German.

On the third of July, at around 2:00 a.m., Buhl left the high camp, and he was followed by his climbing partner approximately one hour later. The climbing partner eventually made his way back to the tent. After being forced to crawl on his hands and knees, Buhl finally made it to the peak at fifteen minutes past nine o’clock. He had a crampon that was missing a strap, he had very little food, and he did not have an ice axe or a tent as he began his journey back. When the sun went down at around 21:00, he was forced to come to a stop since the only spot he could spend the night was on a little ledge that had just room for standing and a single handhold. After falling asleep for four hours, he was finally able to begin his descent at four o’clock. He ultimately made it back to the tent at nine o’clock, when he was assisted by two comrades who had assumed he had passed away. After further consideration, Herrligkoffer came to the conclusion that the solo climb constituted an act of disloyalty because the original plan called for a group of climbers to reach the peak.

He is a man who is obstinate, Hermann Buhl. During these first several days of July 1953, the fact that the expedition leader Karl Maria Herrligkoffer gives the signal to turn back multiple times in Nanga Parbat Base Camp does not worry him in the least. Climbing is not something that the German is skilled at, but he is brilliant at organizing adventures and raising money for causes.

In contrast to Buhl, who is now in peak condition at the age of 28, the Austrian was the first person in the Alps to climb the Northeast Face of Piz Badile by himself in the year 1952. In February, he also ascended the Watzmann East Face by himself, but this time it was during the winter. In addition, he believes that there is a good opportunity for him to climb Nanga Parbat, which is an eight-thousand-meter peak in Pakistan. The Nazis had referred to it as the “German mountain of fate” and revered.

There is still a distance of more than six kilometres and an elevation difference of 1,225 meters between the nearest camp and the highest point on the mountain. Instead of taking bottled oxygen with him, Buhl makes his way out of the tent on his own when his tent companion Otto Kempter is not ready to go at the time that was agreed upon. “It is windless, yet clear,” Buhl writes later. “The crescent moon shines down and casts silvery light on the ridge rising before me.” “It is starry,” Buhl says.

Standing in a bivouac

At first, he believes that his partner would eventually catch up to him, but then he realizes that Kempter is leaving the race. At this point, Buhl is aware that he will either succeed on his own or fail completely. He continues to climb, completely oblivious to the reality that his strength is diminishing each step of the way. Willpower alone is what propels him on.

On the evening of July 3, 1953, in the early evening hours, Buhl finally reached the highest peak, which is 8,125 meters. The significance of the event is not something I am aware of, nor do I have any feelings of delight associated with triumph; in fact, I do not even feel like a winner. To put it simply, I am relieved that I am currently in that position and that all of my efforts have, for the time being, come to an end.

However, Buhl is not correct. The toughest part of the struggle is still to come for him. He stays there for the entire night, perched on a narrow ledge. To prevent himself from falling asleep, Buhl takes the stimulant Pervitin and the pills that protect him against frostbite. After a journey that lasted for forty-one hours, he finally made it back to the top camp with all of his remaining strength. An extraordinary demonstration of energy. In just two days, Buhl appears to have aged by several years.

Death at the Chogolisa.

Despite having access to contemporary equipment and having a thorough understanding of the route, Japanese climbers would still require 39 hours to complete the same route in the year 1995. Reinhold Messner once responded to my inquiry regarding Buhl’s accomplishment on Nanga Parbat by stating, “This makes it clear that Buhl was ahead of his time by at least 50 years.” His statement was made in response to my inquiry. “What Buhl did was not something that a typical mountaineer would be able to survive.”

After some time, the first person to climb Nanga Parbat passes away at the young age of 32. In the Karakoram Mountains, on June 27, 1957, a cornice breaks off underneath Buhl while he is climbing with Kurt Diemberger along the summit ridge of Chogolisa, which is a seven-thousander. Buhl is killed when he falls to his death.

A few days earlier, he had made the first ascent of the eight-thousander Broad Peak with his Austrian compatriots Diemberger, Fritz Wintersteller, and Marcus Schmuck. They had done so in a small team, without high-altitude porters, and once more without bottled oxygen, which was a revolution in high-altitude mountaineering at the time. In the same manner that he was ahead of his time on Nanga Parbat, Buhl was present there.

The Himalayas

Nanga Prabat

Thirty-one individuals had already lost their lives while attempting to undertake the first climb of Nanga Parbat prior to his successful trip in 1953.

Since Buhl is the only climber to have ever accomplished the first solo ascent of an eight-thousander, he did it during his very first trip to the Greater Ranges. Otto Kempter, who was supposed to be his climbing partner, was too sluggish to join the ascent, so Buhl headed up the mountain by himself. It was 41 hours after he had returned, and he had just about made it through the gruelling ascent to the peak, which was located 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) away from camp V and 1.2 kilometres (4,000 feet) higher than it.

In the aftermath of Buhl’s near-death ascent, experienced climbers expressed their disapproval of his decision to undertake the climb on his own. His colossal efforts, which included spending the night standing on a tiny pedestal that was too small to crouch onto, untethered, on the brink of a sixty-degree ice slope, have become a mountaineering legend. Bonington used the phrase “a magnificent achievement” to characterize his accomplishments.

The Broad Peak

The first climb of Broad Peak was accomplished by Fritz Wintersteller, Marcus Schmuck, Kurt Diemberger, and Buhl, all of whom were members of an Austrian expedition commanded by Schmuck. This ascent took place between June 8 and 9, 1957. A preliminary effort was undertaken by the group on May 29, when Fritz Wintersteller and Kurt Diemberger reached the forepeak, which is located at an elevation of 8030 meters. The accomplishment of this feat was also completed without the use of supplementary oxygen, high-altitude porters, or backup from base camp.

The Chogolisa

In the Alpine manner, Buhl and Diemberger made an attempt on Chogolisa (7665 m), which is located close and has not yet been climbed. This effort came just a few weeks after the successful first ascent of Broad Peak. As a result of an unexpected snowstorm, Buhl became disoriented and went over a massive cornice on the East Ridge, which is located close to the summit of Chogolisa II (7654 m; also known as Bride Peak). This caused an avalanche, which in turn catapulted him down 900 meters down Chogolisa’s Northeast Face. It was not possible to retrieve his corpse, and it is still suspended in the ice.


The likes of Kurt Diemberger, Marcus Schmuck, Heinrich Harrer, Walter Bonatti, and Gaston Rébuffat, amongst other current luminaries, have praised his ascents on rock and snow, both solo and as a rope leader, as well as his approach toward the mountain and his physical grace.  Additionally, climbers of younger generations, such as Reinhold Messner, Peter Habeler, and Hansjorg Auer, looked up to him as a hero and considered him to be their idol.

Donald Shebib’s film The Climb, which was released in 1986 and starred Bruce Greenwood as Buhl, was a dramatization of his voyage to Nanga Parbat. The film was partially based on Buhl’s own writings on the expedition.



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