Slovenian Tomaz Humar, one of the world’s leading mountaineers found dead on Langtang Lirung
Tomaz Humar

Tomaž Humar as Slovenian mountaineer, who passed away in a climbing mishap in Nepal at the age of forty, was a Yugoslavian soldier stationed in the town of Podujevo in Kosovo during the summer of 1988. The intentions that Slobodan Miloševic had for ethnic Albanians were something that Humar despised, and when his conscription concluded, he informed his commanding officer that he desired to return home. In its place, he was jailed and subjected to mistreatment before being abandoned amid a town that was hostile toward Yugoslavian forces while carrying an empty firearm. It was the Albanian who showed compassion for him and paid for his train ticket back to Slovenia, and he never forgot that person. Tomaž Humar (February 18, 1969 – c. November 10, 2009), nicknamed Gozdni Joža, was a Slovenian mountaineer.

Using a helicopter, a rescue crew consisting of Swissmen Robert Andenmatten and Simon Anthmatten (Air Zermatt) and Italians Oskar Piazza and Angelo Giovanetti was able to retrieve the lifeless corpse of Slovenian alpinist Tomasz Humar from a height of 5600 meters on the South Face of Langtang Lirung (7230 meters) in Nepal. Tomasz Humar, who was forty years old at the time, was regarded as one of the most powerful alpinists in the world.

The upheaval that spread throughout Yugoslavia had a profound impact on Humar as a result of his own experience. But his experiences in Kosovo reinforced his scepticism for authority, a process that was mirrored in his spectacular climb to become one of the world’s top mountaineers. He was a natural individualist, but his experiences in Kosovo enhanced his suspicion for authority. Growing up in the world of Yugoslavian mountaineering, with its hierarchies and bureaucracy, he embarked on his own journey to become a hero for a new nation. He established his own way to achieve this goal.

The city of Ljubljana is where he was born, but he spent his childhood in the town of Kamnik, which is located in the northern part of Slovenia, near to the stunning limestone peaks of the Kamnik Alps. His mother worked as a store assistant, while his father ran a construction company. Even though they had a difficult life, they were a very close family. When his parents found out that their first son was interested in climbing while he was a teenager, they did not give their blessing.

In Yugoslavia, climbing was a highly regulated activity as well as an intrinsic component of Slovenian culture. Alpine activities constitute a significant aspect of Slovenian culture. Those who were just starting out were required to follow a rigorous training program, and no one could advance to the next level without first receiving official authorization. Those individuals who were deemed capable were selected for missions by a committee that was both tiny and strong. It was impossible for anyone to climb overseas without the backing of their club, and this was especially true for those who, as Humar did, had a small family to provide for.

Following Slovenia’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the country quickly became recognized as a major force in the world of mountaineering. Despite the fact that the system was susceptible to personal jealousies, it was successful in producing a large number of skilled mountain runners.

Following the completion of his apprenticeship, Humar was recognized as a promising young talent. Tone Škarja, the mastermind behind Slovenian expedition climbing, decided to choose him to attempt a new route up Annapurna, which is the tenth highest peak in the world. Although the expedition was successful, Humar was unable to reach the top with his efforts. While Humar was being sent down by Škarja, he disregarded the instruction of his captain and walked back to the peak by himself. His connection with the Slovenian climbing establishment was severely damaged as a result of the choice, which came dangerously close to taking his life.

If this had occurred at the time of the previous communist regime, Humar’s climbing career would have been irreparably damaged. As a result, he found himself emancipated from the necessity of convincing apparatchiks of his worth as Slovenia lurched towards democracy and a free-market economy. Meanwhile, he was able to cobble together enough funding to work outside of the old system and arrange his own trips.

During the middle to late 1990s, Humar began on a series of climbs in the Himalayas. These efforts garnered him a significant following in Slovenia, which is known for its passion for mountains, as well as the admiration of the climbing community on a widespread scale. Initially, he climbed a new route on the northwest face of Ama Dablam, which is a steep and beautiful peak that is within sight of Everest. This was done in collaboration with Vanja Furlan. As a result, he was awarded the Piolet d’Or, which is the climbing equivalent of an Oscar.

In 1997, two years after that, he attempted an even more impressive line on Nuptse, which is the highest peak on the Everest massif itself for climbing. Its west face is breathtakingly magnificent, but the path that Humar took to ascend it was treacherous and steep. The climber Humar ascended with Janez Jeglic, who is a well-known and well-liked figure in Slovenia. They were continually unable to move because of the poor weather that lasted for four days. Their stove developed a leak, which decreased the amount of vital fluids that they consumed, and they came dangerously close to suffocating in their bivouac tent when it was compressed by the snow that was falling.

“If we climb this, Tomaž,” Jeglic said during the third night, “we’ll be happy for the rest of our lives, and if we don’t, we’ll make half of Slovenia happy.” Jeglic demonstrated that he did not lose his sense of humour when it came to the politics of climbing in Slovenia.

A little ahead of Humar, Jeglic arrived at the peak the following day in the midst of ferocious winds. As a sign of his triumph, he waved his ice axe in his direction. Nevertheless, when Humar arrived at the peak, there was no trace of Jeglic; all that was left was a trail of footsteps that culminated in the radio being left lying in the snow. The conclusion that Humar came to was that his friend had been blown off balance and had fallen down the opposite side of the mountain, which was the south face of Nuptse.

When Humar found himself stranded on the summit of a challenging Himalayan peak, he was now faced with the challenge of descending the 2,500-meter wall that they had just climbed. The time had come, and as darkness fell, his torch had stopped working, and he had misplaced his snow goggles. He was only able to keep going because he heard the voice of a buddy who was in base camp over the radio. He was hallucinating, dehydrated, and suffering from frostbite when he narrowly escaped from an avalanche. Two days later, he emerged at the foot of the face, barely alive.

The psychological wounds that Humar had sustained never went away, despite the fact that it took him several months to recuperate from his injuries. His accomplishments on Nuptse were lauded by many people, but Humar had the impression that the wrong guy had returned home because of his feelings for Jeglic and the rumors that circulated among Slovenian climbers about their trip. Following his ascent of Nuptse, he primarily opted to climb by himself and, following a last disagreement with the authorities in Slovenia, he became skilled at successfully creating public attention and financing.

His subsequent journey, which consisted of a solo climb of the south face of Dhaulagiri in 1999, was something that ordinary Slovenians watched with great interest on the internet. Reinhold Messner stepped in to give Humar his stamp of approval, despite the fact that Humar did not quite accomplish the climb that he had planned. Nor did Humar’s new devotees care too much about the technicalities of climbing ethics. Restless, expressive and charismatic, he talked of climbing in spiritual, even mystical terms, and considered himself on a search for psychological health. That message connected with the Slovenian populace and they liked him for it. Humar’s public appearances improved his financial woes and allowed him to begin building a residence in the Kamnik Alps. Ironically, he later suffered horrible injuries in a construction accident, fracturing both legs. It took him years to recover.

Humar’s latest high-profile trip was in 2005, to the massive Rupal face of Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, a mountain wall approximately 15,000ft high. Humar gathered a small circle of pals to base camp, including an astrologist, Nataša Pergar, to read his aura and that of the mountain and assist him select an auspicious day to begin climbing.

Humar underestimated and found himself caught low on the face in harsh weather. Unable to move up or down, and with every twist and turn of his condition watched in real-time on the internet, Humar’s plight sparked intervention from the presidents of Pakistan and Slovenia. Before another avalanche of scandal landed on his head, a superb Pakistani chopper pilot named Rashid Ullah Baig was able to rescue him and bring him to safety.

However, following Nanga Parbat, Humar was more conservative in his approach to the situation, although he found it hard to resist the compelling drama of the enormous mountains. Langtang Lirung, a peak in Nepal that had not been climbed since 1995 and was extremely treacherous, was the destination of his final expedition, which he once again ascended alone. Even though he had serious injuries, he was able to make one last call on his satellite phone before he passed away. The unfavourable weather conditions made it difficult to rescue him, and he was discovered dead on Saturday.

Sergeja, Humar’s ex-wife, and their two children, Tomi and Ursa, will miss him dearly.

Prominent expeditions

13. November 1994: Ganesh V (6770 m), in Ganesh Himal, a new variation on SE face, with Stane Belak-Šrauf
6. May 1995: Annapurna (8091 m), N face, French Route, solo climb (the only traditional expedition in which he participated)
4. May 1996: Ama Dablam (6828 m), new route on NW face, with Vanja Furlan
2. November 1996: Bobaye (6808 m), 1st ascent of the summit, NW face, new route “Golden Heart”, solo climb
1. October 1997: Lobuche East (6119 m), NE face, new route “Talking About Tsampa”, with Janez Jeglič and Carlos Carsolio
9-11. October 1997: Pumori (7165 m), SE face attempt of a new route up to 6300 m – then after participation in rescue action at N reached the summit by normal route), with Janez Jeglič, Marjan Kovač
31. October 1997: Nuptse West top (NW, 7742 m), W face, new route, with Janez Jeglič (who died during descent)
26. October 1998: El Capitan (2307 m) (Yosemite), route Reticent Wall A4-A5, 3rd solo climb (1st solo by non-American)
2. November 1999: Dhaulagiri (8167 m), new route on S face (up to 8000 m, without reaching the top), solo climb
26. October 2002: Shisha Pangma, (8046 m), with Maxut Zhumaiev, Denis Urubko, Aleksej Raspopov, Vassiliy Pivtsov
June 2003: Nanga Parbat (8125 m), his first attempt to climb Rupal (S) Face, up to ca. 6000 m
22. December 2003: Aconcagua (6960 m), S face, new route with Aleš Koželj
October 2004: Jannu (7711 m), E face, attempt solo up to 7000 m
23. April 2005: Cholatse (6440 m), NE face 2nd ascent with new variation, with Aleš Koželj, Janko Oprešnik
Aug 2005: Nanga Parbat (8125 m), attempts to solo climb Rupal (S) Face, up to 7000 meters (with famous helicopter rescue action – see main text above)
October 2006: Baruntse (7129 m), W face of SE ridge, solo
28. October 2007: Annapurna (8091 m), S face, new route, solo climb
(ca.) 8. November 2009: Langtang Lirung (7227 m), S face a solo attempt, and died during the descent


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