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Kurt Diemberger - The Quantum of Happiness

First climber and cameraman of the eight-thousanders

A life portrait for the 90th birthday

It is easier to become a good mountaineer than an old mountaineer - Kurt Diemberger is convinced of that and he succeeded. Around 65 years ago he was the first person to climb Broad Peak, and a few years later also the mighty Dhaulagiri. Two eight-thousanders were the first to be climbed – apart from him, only two people managed that, the Tyrolean Hermann Buhl and the Nepalese Gyaltsen Norbu Sherpa. Kurt Diemberger is the only one alive. He belongs to the generation of pioneers who ventured into what was then unknown and, with the luck of the discoverer, were able to take the first glimpse of a hidden corner of the world. He pushed the horizon of the vertical and opened it to a wider audience - with many award-winning mountain films and his successful books. He is one of the founders of the documentary mountain film, has received many awards and as a "cameraman of the eight-thousanders" he filmed numerous expeditions to the high mountains of the world. When others sank down exhausted at the summit, he captured the surrounding summit world with his camera with a steady hand. With his mountain partner Julie Tullis he formed the highest film team in the world. With her, he also reached the summit of K2 in August 1986 – it was to be their last joint venture. Their partnership ended on K2 in an unbelievable tragedy.

Skill, experience and a bit of luck

“I was lucky enough to get out of dangerous situations unscathed. It doesn't just take skill and experience, but also a certain amount of luck that you can't gamble away," says the 90-year-old. Hermann Buhl had invited the 25-year-old Kurt to the Broad Peak expedition in 1957 because he had climbed the most famous walls of the Alps in a spectacular way. Buhl himself was considered the icon of Austrian alpinism at the time. Without additional oxygen and the help of porters, he was the first to reach the summit of the dreaded eight-thousander Nanga Parbat, the "German Mountain of Fate", and was thus a pioneer of the alpine style in high-altitude mountaineering. Immediately after their success, Buhl and Diemberger climbed the Chogolisa, a seven-thousander in the Karakorum. Buhl fell to his death while descending in dense fog. Only a few days earlier, they had experienced complete mountaineering bliss together with their first ascent of Broad Peak. But victory and defeat, happiness and death were always Kurt Diemberger's companions on the highest mountains in the world. The mountaineer, filmmaker, photographer and author celebrates his 90th birthday on March 16th.

The great tragedy at K2

On the third attempt, Kurt Diemberger, at the age of 54, finally succeeded in climbing K2 together with the British Julie Tullis. They had tried it several times, and once managed to reach just below the summit of the most difficult and dangerous eight-thousander. Finally they had reached their great goal - the top of the great crystal. But a series of unfortunate circumstances, a sudden fall in the weather that brought masses of snow and raging storms, caused them to fall Kurt and Julie and, at the end of their strength, had to drag themselves to the high camp. Together with five other experienced high-altitude climbers, they were stuck in their tents at 8000 m for days in a never-ending storm. Under these conditions there was no chance of finding the way down into the valley. So we waited for the weather to improve without water and without food, and then dared to descend to the base camp. Only two of the climbers made it back down to the valley – one of them was Kurt Diemberger. His partner died from exhaustion while still up in the high camp, the infinite knot that had bound them so intimately was torn forever. So his grandiose career as an alpinist ended in his greatest personal tragedy. It borders on a miracle that Kurt Diemberger and the Upper Austrian alpinist Willi Bauer managed to return to the base camp on K2 after many long days and nights in the death zone in this storm.

Adventurers and explorers - and the family?

Family and high-altitude mountaineering is a big challenge, especially for the family. The 90th birthday portrait also shows the other Kurt Diemberger, struggling to live up to his role as husband and father. His long mountaineering career was characterized by constant setting off, arriving, moving on and searching for the unknown, and last but not least by unique successes and terrible tragedies, such as that on K2. The children of the mountaineers who stayed behind on the second highest mountain in the world, as well as the daughter of Hermann Buhl, suffered a common fate. While some traveled to K2 to come to terms with and better understand the black summer of 1986 and the death of their loved ones, Kriemhild Buhl has a book about the great love of two young people; a radiant couple in the splendor of Nanga Parbat and a lonely widow with three little girls. Hermann Buhl died as a partner of Kurt Diemberger at the Chogulisa. Kurt Diemberger was aware of the risk and responsibility towards his family throughout his life, and yet it drove him out again and again. However, there was always this quantum of luck in his backpack, which he never gambled away. Kurt Diemberger was born in Villach, he worked as a teacher in Salzburg before deciding to climb eight thousand mountains in the Himalayas. The filmmaker and author now lives in his private base camp in the hills near Bologna


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