Historic No-Oxygen Climbing Team Returns to Nepal 40 Years Later

Mt Everest summit team

While the teams up in Everest Base Camp and on other mountains in the Himalaya continue to get settled in for the climbing season ahead, an historic reunion was taking place in Kathmandu. That’s where the surviving members of the first team to summit Everest without the use of bottled oxygen joined one another to celebrate their achievement 40 years after they changed the paradigms of mountaineering forever.

The expedition took place back in 1978 and consisted of 12 members, of which 8 are still alive. They include mountaineering legends Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler, as well as their support team consisting of Wolfgang Nairz, Helmut Hagner, Hanns Schell, Robert Schauer, Oswald Ölz and Raimund Margreiter. The four members of the squad who have since passed include Horst Bergmann, Josl Knoll, Reinhard Karl and Franz Oppurg.

40 years ago when this team gathered on Everest to attempt to climb the world’s highest mountain without the use of oxygen, the thought of going to the summit without wearing a mask and oxygen tank was pretty much unthinkable. It was thought at the time that man simply couldn’t exist at those altitudes without bringing their own oxygen supply. The entire team proved this theory to be wrong by putting Messner and Habeler on the summit without using supplemental O’s.

Messner has long been a proponent of climbing under the “fairest means” possible, which to him means leaving the oxygen tanks behind. He also laments the commercialization of Everest in general, calling the current state of affairs on the mountain “tourism,” and not climbing.

During the 1978 expedition, most of the climbers did summit, although Messner and Habeler were the only ones to do it without oxygen. Then successfully topped out on May 8. Bergmann, Schauer and Wolfgang climbed Mt Everest on May 3 while Ölz and Karl stood atop the peak on May 11, with Oppurg following along on May 14. Margreiter, Hagner and Schell were forced to turn back due to poor weather, while Knoll abandoned his attempt when his oxygen mask stopped working.

The entire team – now all in their 70’s – is currently traveling in the Khumbu Valley where they are visiting some hospitals damaged in the 2017 earthquake. They’ll also spread the ashes of famed mountaineer Norman Dyhenfurth who passed away at the age of 99 last year, before attending a special function held in their honor by the Nepal Mountaineering Association back in Kathmandu.

A major salute to this group of men from The Adventure Blog. They truly changed the way we see high altitude mountaineering and pushed the envelope in terms of what humans can do in the big mountains.

Kraig Becker

2 thoughts on “Historic No-Oxygen Climbing Team Returns to Nepal 40 Years Later”

  1. Back in the wonderful days when you planned an adventure at your Pub with a Pint and a napkin.

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