Hermann Buhl (1924-1957)

Hermann Buhl (1924-1957)

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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.


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Viewing: 21-29 of 29
Diego Sahagún

Diego Sahagún - Apr 4, 2006 11:04 am - Voted 8/10

Jochen Hemmleb in Buhl's footsteps


Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Apr 4, 2006 4:41 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Jochen Hemmleb in Buhl's footsteps

Interresting reading! Thanks for posting!


mvs - Jul 5, 2006 1:23 pm - Voted 10/10

Some more info

I've really enjoyed reading his book about growing up in Innsbruck and the excitement he had on the journey to become an exceptional climber. His favorite area for a time was the Wilder Kaiser, which is almost absent on summitpost, but deserves more attention. I'd like to know a chronology of his climbs around Innsbruck, in the Wetterstein, Karwendel and Kaiser ranges. It would be very interesting reading, also a great "tick list!"

That part of the book at least is very well written (ie, certainly not repetitive), conveying the early wonder and excitement we all had...also the danger.


BigLee - Jan 22, 2007 4:28 pm - Voted 6/10

What about the rest?

There's more to Hermann Buhl than Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak. What about the stuff before? These are just the final chapters. What about his winter climb on Marmalada for example and the countless other climbs he did in the Western Alps and Dolomites? I think Buhl's passion and tenacity are as much of an inspiration to climbers today as are his 8000m summits. This article doesn't really reflect that passion I'm afraid (sorry to be harsh).

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Jan 22, 2007 5:47 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: What about the rest?

Well, in my opinion the first ascent of Broad Peak and especially Nanga Parbat are the most important climbs Hermann Buhl has done, because their influence on how to climb high mountains today is immense. On the other hand you' re right, since many of the climbs he has done before (Marmolada, Watzmann E-face winter&solo, Eiger N-face, and countless others) are great achievements (and I agree they show his passion as well as his 8000m climbs)!
Well concluding I have to say that I didn' t intend to make a complete climbing history of Hermann Buhl but a brief description of his -in my opinion- most important climbs, which leads to a bad name of my article...
Anyway, thanks for you comment!

Cheers Lukas


BigLee - Feb 1, 2007 10:50 am - Voted 6/10

Re: What about the rest?

Might be worth renaming the article something along the line of "Hermann Buhl: The Final Chapter", or "Hermann Buhl's 8000m Ascents", or something like that as "1924-1957" doesn't reflect the article, which is essentially the 1953-1957 years. Excellent pictures by the way. Lee


Bor - Aug 27, 2007 6:24 am - Voted 10/10

What a man!

I have just read his book Nanga Parbat and it was really amazing reading. Big man!

Lukas Kunze

Lukas Kunze - Aug 28, 2007 3:39 am - Hasn't voted

Re: What a man!

Thanks Bor!
Yes, he was a great climber without any doubt. Sometimes I wonder what he might have climbed if he hadn' t fallen through the cornice...
Cheers Lukas


DoJo - Sep 24, 2007 4:11 pm - Voted 10/10

new book

Mein Vater Hermann Buhl by Kriemhild Buhl

Hermann Buhl, his life and the years after his death from one of his daughters perspective - interesting and emotional

Viewing: 21-29 of 29