Hermann Buhl (1924-1957)

Hermann Buhl (1924-1957)

Page Type Page Type: Article

Hermann Buhl

Hermann Buhl was born on September 21st 1924 in Innsbruck (Tyrol, Austria) and is considered one of the best alpinists of all time. On his 10th birthday he summited his first mountain (Glugenzer, 2600m/8531ft). From there on he couldn' t stop dreaming of mountains and started to climb and soonly reached UIAA grade VI (maximum grade of this time). During summer 1940 he and his partner watched a solo climber overtaking them. After a while he fell to his death and Buhl recognized that climbing is a dangerous thing. But this didn' t stop him and he did several firsts and difficult routes all over the alps.

Nanga Parbat

Hermann Buhl on Nanga ParbatHermann Buhl with Nanga Parbat in the background.

The fascination of Hermann Buhl has a lot to do with the first ascent of Nanga Parbat in 1953. Buhl was invited in 1952 and trained a lot. His final test was the first solo and winter ascent of Watzmann east face. 31 people had died on Nanga Parbat until that date and it didn' t look so well for the Austro German expedition lead by Dr. Herrligkoffer. The expedition had to deal with bad weather and ill organisation and finally the climbers among Buhl where called back to basecamp. On July 1st the weather got better and after a discussion with the basecamp they got green light to make a summit attempt. After this they ascended to camp V (6900m / 22600ft) to have a good start point of their summit attempt. On the next day at 1am Buhl woke Otto Kempter, who didn' t feel good. He said that he' ll follow Buhl in a few hours. Buhl decided to try a solo ascent.

Summit shot of Hermann BuhlHermann Buhl' s summit shot.

Hermann Buhl descending Nanga ParbatHermann Buhl descending Nanga Parbat.

Kempter followed the tracks of Buhl but turned around at Silbersattel (silver col, 7450m / 24443ft). Late that evening Buhl reached the top Nanga Parbat after 17 hours of climbing. He made some photos and placed his pick on the summit, which had been brought down by Takehido Ikeda in 1999. After descending a few metres he turned arround and ascendet to the summit again to pick a stone for his wife. After nightfall he had to camp without a tent at still around 8000m/26000ft. In his books about Nanga Parbat he describes the appeareance of a partner, though he knew that there was nobody except him. Therefore Buhl is propably the first person to experience the existence of a ghost partner. After 41 hours of solo climbing he reached camp V again.

Buhl had frozen toes and had to be carried off basecamp, because he wasn' t able to walk anymore. He is the only person, who did a first ascent of an 8000m peak solo and he didn' t use oxygen. The only thing he earned chriticism for after returning home, were Paduin pills (he ate some of these to avoid frostbite during the night he was standing at 8000m/26000ft). Nevertheless this solo ascent is one of the greatest things ever been done in the Himalayan mountains.

Broad Peak and Chogolisa

Hermann Buhl on the summitHermann Buhl on the summit of Broad Peak.

In 1957 Marcus Schmuck initiated an austrian Karakoram expedition. The expeditions goal was to ascent Broad Peak. Buhl was the experianced climber of the expedition and therefore he was responsible for getting the best equipment of that time. Marcus Schmuck was leader and organisator of the expedition. After acclimatizing Buhl, Fritz Wintersteller, Kurt Diemberger and Schmuck made a summit attempt. Buhl ascended with Diemberger. At around 7900m / 26000ft Buhl cannot go any further, because of the frostbite from Nanga Parbat and Diemberger went on solo. During this time Schmuck and Wintersteller reached the summit of Broad Peak and turned back. After Diemberger has reached the summit he started to descent and was pretty surprised to meet Buhl ascending, despite of his frostbite. Diemberger turned arround and together they summited Broad Peak and enjoyed a splendid sunset and descended successfully to the highcamp. The complete team didn' t use oxygen or high porters.

Hermann Buhl  s last trackHermann Buhl' s last track on Chogolisa.

After returning to basecamp Schmuck and Wintersteller decided to attempt Skil Brum and they summited successfully. Buhl and Diemberger tried to summit Chogolisa (7668m / 25159ft). As Schmuck and Wintersteller, Buhl decided to go in true alpine style, which has never been done before on Himalayan mountains. The word alpine style didn' t existis that time and was invented several years later. Within three days they ascended up to 6700m / 22000ft. On June 28th 1957 they left their camp at 5am and started to ascend. A few hours before he died Buhl said to Diemberger that this is the happiest day during this expedition and he always has dreamt of ascending such a mountain like a storm with one single push from basecamp. A few hours later a storm reached the mountain and made them turn back at 7300m / 24000ft. Diemberger was leading back down in difficult white out conditions, but they didn' t rope on. The ridge of Chogolisa was heavily corniced and suddenly Diemberger felt vibrations under his feet. Instinctively he jumped away from the ridge and went on descending. After a while he halted to wait for Buhl to tell him that he nearly fell through a cornice. But he didn' t see Buhl. He started to ascend again and saw the tracks of his jump action and the track of Buhl leaving his tracks and going on to the disappeared cornice. He tried to watch down the face, but he didn' t see anything and descendet to basecamp to rescue Buhl with Schmuck and Wintersteller. The body of Buhl has never been found and is burried on the foot of Chogolisa.

Further reading


www.broadpeak.org - Official homepage of the austrian OEAV expedition to Broad Peak of 1957.
www.hermann-buhl.de - Unfortunately this page is in german only, but it provides some interresting images.


Hermann Buhl - Achttausend drüber und drunterBuhl has written several books but one of the most interresting ones is "Achtausend - drüber und drunter" (eightthousand - above and below). Since last year a new edition is available which contains Buhls Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak diaries and lots of interresting commentaries of Kurt Diemberger. Unfortunately I haven' t found an english edition (if you did please send me a pm). The german edition is available on amazon.de.

Hermann Buhl - Achttausen drüber und drunter

Piper Verlag München

ISBN-13: 978-3-89029-303-5, ISBN-10: 3-89029-303-4.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 29
Vid Pogachnik

Vid Pogachnik - Feb 16, 2006 8:33 pm - Voted 9/10

Buhl was an icon!

Thanks for posting this fine article. I read Buhl's book in a Slovenian translation and must say that it's a pearl. He really was a man an his influence on younger climbers was immense!

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 17, 2006 12:48 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Buhl was an icon!

Thanks Vid. I comletely agree with you. Even today Buhl' s influence is not deniable and there are only a few who reach his skill. Cheers, Lukas

Rick B

Rick B - Feb 17, 2006 5:02 am - Voted 10/10

Overusing my 10/10

I feel like I'm overusing my 10/10 vote on this page and the photos on it.. But I just can't help it..! It's a nice read, and the photos really top it off. The one with Buhl's last steps is fascinating.



Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 17, 2006 12:44 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Overusing my 10/10

Thanks for your votes and your kind words, Rick!
Cheers Lukas

Fritz Wintersteller

Fritz Wintersteller - Feb 17, 2006 11:15 am - Voted 10/10

BP History

Great article. Buhl was the hero of Nanga Parbat on the Austrian First Ascent of BP, certainly the most experienced high altitude climber, and Hermann provided the best equipment available at the time from Sport Scheck in Munich to the benefit of the team.

Two points I like to make:
1. Marcus Schmuck was the initiator, leader and organizer of the expedition. He provided for the funds and the permit to climb the mountain.
2. Skil Brum was climbed successfully in pure alpine style a few days before the atempt to climb Chogolisa.

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 17, 2006 12:33 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: BP History

Thanks for this information. I didn' t have a lot information about the ascent of Skil Brum. I' ve changed this in the article. The first point was a my mistake. Thanks for pointing that out.


avidwanderer - Feb 18, 2006 3:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Great Read!

Excellent article! I didn't know much about him except that he soloed Watzman Ostwand in winter. I wish I could write and article in my second language :-D You have a great command of the english language!

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 19, 2006 11:35 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Read!

Thanks, avidwanderer! I' ve read one of his books and its stunning to read what he has done.


dedo - Feb 19, 2006 9:00 pm - Voted 9/10


Nice reading, Lukas. I like Buhls "8000 drüber und drunter" best of all mountaineering books, he had the most fascinating writing style.

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 19, 2006 10:43 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: fascinating

Thanks dedo! I agree totally with you! Did you read the new release of this book, which includes Buhl' s diaries of the Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak expeditions? If not, try to get it, because these diaries are stunning...

Diego Sahagún

Diego Sahagún - Feb 20, 2006 1:10 am - Voted 8/10

Re: fascinating

Though Buhl is a hero for me I don't think that this book is as good as some of you say. I'm reading the Spanish version and sometimes I have stopped reading it because it bored. I think that he is very repetitive in describing his rock climbs. What is true is that I always take up its reading again. Anyway, I've enjoyed some of his methods as carrying snow balls in his hands for getting used to cold. He was the master in the world of mountaineering and his strength of body and mind was incredible in my opinion

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 25, 2006 10:03 am - Hasn't voted

Re: fascinating

Well, who is not repetitive? But in my opinion the real quality of his books is the energy and fascination of Buhl, which can be read between the lines. Sometimes I felt like beeing roped on with him. Thanks for your comment Diego! Cheers Lukas


vvujisic - Feb 22, 2006 2:00 am - Voted 10/10

Impressive & beautiful!

Congratulations Lukas to your beautiful description of Buhl's heroism!

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 22, 2006 10:26 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Impressive & beautiful!

Thanks Vlado :)


am89 - Feb 22, 2006 2:26 am - Hasn't voted


This is a very interesting article and thanks for posting it. This bio is a great oppurtunity for me (and others like me) to learn about the notorious alpinists of the past and I appreciate the effort you have put in to make it.

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 22, 2006 10:29 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Interesting

Thanks for your comment. If you' re interrested in Buhl' s bio I recommend to read the book I mentioned at the end of my article!


Shano - Feb 23, 2006 4:47 pm - Hasn't voted


it's great to see that people still have an interest in the exploits of Hermann Buhl. I've read "Pilgrimage" perhaps 3 times and never tire of reading about his adventures and being inspired by someone so utterly psyched on climbing. His traverse of the peaks of the MontBlanc series still boggles my mind. He charged to the very end. His spirit remains truly immortal!

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 25, 2006 9:47 am - Hasn't voted

Re: refreshing

Thanks Shano, i totally agree with you. Among climbers Hermann Buhl will always be remebered! It' s amazing what he has done (and with what equipment he has done it...). Cheers Lukas


dadndave - Feb 24, 2006 3:16 am - Voted 10/10


A niceely written piece, Lukas. I enjoyed reading it. I didn'y know about the photos of his footsteps on the cornice. Seems a mundane end for such a great alpinist.

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Feb 25, 2006 9:54 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great

Thanks dadndave!

Viewing: 1-20 of 29